Am I Being Bullied?
Sometimes it can be hard to know if you’re feeling a bit over-sensitive for some reason or whether what you’re experiencing at work or at school is bullying.
Is it really bullying/harassment?
Bullying is not legitimate or fair criticism that aims to help you do your job better – even if you don’t like being criticised – or a one-off argument or occasional difference of opinion. And sexual harassment isn’t innocent flirting.
The key is that what’s happening is frequent and unwarranted or uninvited.
Even if this is the case but you’re still not sure if you have anything to complain about, simply ask the person what their intention is when they nit-pick or do whatever it is they do. You can approach it in an innocent and sympathetic way such as ‘Jack/Jill, I feel you’re having to talk to me a lot about my work/etc recently. Can you be specific about what it is you want me to do differently? Am I really doing that badly?’ Or ‘Jack/Jill, you’re a great guy/gal and I feel awful saying this, but I’d like our relationship to be strictly professional so when you tap my butt/say XYZ when I’m around I really don’t like it. Would you mind not doing it?’
Taking action early is useful in 3 ways.
Firstly, the longer bullying (if that’s what it is) goes on the more eroded your self esteem will become. Take action now while you feel strong and in control.
Secondly, bullies (if that what this person is) don’t like to be confronted. S/he may back off when s/he sees you’re not going to play the victim role.
And thirdly the person may genuinely not realise that they’re doing the thing you feel uncomfortable with. That’s no excuse as they do need to be made aware that you have a problem with it, but as colleagues and adults you’ll be able to get on with working together.
This is bullying.
A bully will often claim that what happened was a joke, a game or an accident. Ask yourself (and ask the bully) if anyone else is laughing/joining in or helping you. If the answer is ‘no’ then this is bullying.
Bullying can be violent – pushing/ shoving/kicking etc – racist, sexist, and/or verbal, written (email, letters, text messages etc).
It involves negative comments, threats, teasing, spreading rumours, ridicule, threats about job security, undermining you, offensive language, insults and blocking promotion. But the list goes on.
More help for children and adults here.
Who are the bullies?
Unfortunately bullying doesn’t stop when we leave the playground. Bullies are potentially everywhere. Children can bully vulnerable adults – the elderly or those with physical or mental difficulties – just as easily as they can bully both older and younger children.
In the workplace colleagues of equal standing to you, superiors or subordinates may become the bullies or harassers.
They can be manipulative with a Jekyll and Hyde character - nice in public but nasty in private – so that no one believes that they could be capable of what you’re saying.
They can work alone or in groups.
A reasonable check list for deciding if what you’re experiencing is bullying is:
- Is it frequent and ongoing?
- Is it in-valid or uninvited?
- Is this person being unprofessional?
- Does it make you feel uncomfortable?
- Is what the person is doing intentional – to hurt, embarrass or undermine you?
- Do you want it to stop?
If the answer to these questions is ‘yes’ then you may well be a victim of bullying and you need to take action.