Does bullying end once we leave high school and go to college or enter the workforce?

Sadly, the answer is no. Almost 30% of American women reported being the victim of workplace bullying in 2014, were more likely than men to be targets of bullying, and were more likely to be bullied by a female coworker.

Today I want to talk about some of the signs you might have a workplace bully and what you can do about it. It is difficult for a single woman to cope with a bully in a professional environment, but believe me when I say you are not alone.

The definition of workplace bullying can get a little gray. Here are some signs a coworker might be bullying you:

  • Leaves you out of important workplace communications related to your job or leaves you out of important meetings related to your job function.
  • Takes credit for work you do or always wants to be the center of attention.
  • Treats you very different from other people in your office.
  • Makes you feel useless. Doesn’t give you projects or work that plays to your strengths, will subtly seek to isolate you from others.
  • Passively uses you as a scapegoat if something they do does not turn out right.
  • Fails to engage you in small talk, or does not exchange any civilities if you do.
  • Does not maintain eye contact at staff meetings, even when you are directly addressing them.
  • Sharply criticizes any mistake you may make, refuses to accept apologies.
  • Sets unrealistically high expectations of you and the amount of work you can perform.
  • Avoids having face-to-face conversations and talks about you behind your back.

Of course there are other ways not mentioned here, but in my 20 years in the workforce, I have seen many of these play out between other coworkers or have been the recipient of it myself.

So what can you do when you realize there’s a pattern and you identify a bully in your workplace? You absolutely should proceed with caution, because depending on the circumstances, your job may be in jeopardy.

While not all of these suggestions will apply to every situation – because each one is indeed unique – hopefully it will give you some ideas of resources or strategies:

  • Realize the bullying is not your fault. You must understand that while you cannot control how people treat you, you can control how you react to it.
  • Read your employee handbook. Study the chain of command of where to take your grievances.
  • If a bullying incident occurs for a first time, try to address it with the person who did it. Setting clear boundaries right from the beginning may nip the behavior in the bud. Try to be as unemotional as possible during the conversation.
  • Document everything. Save emails if you are being directly harassed, keep track of email chains you were left out of, record dates and times of unpleasant conversations, and any other things that definitively prove you are being bullied. Information is power.
  • Avoid gossiping or complaining to your equals about how you are being treated. I know this is much more easier said than done, but workplace gossip always has a habit of coming back to haunt you.
  • Try to treat your bully better than they treat you. Greet them in the morning and wish them a good evening. It is so difficult to be nice to people who are mean to you, but the high road is definitely the one to take.
  • Following your company’s policies and armed with your information, speak to your direct supervisor of HR officer (whichever is most appropriate). If they are worth their salt, they will address the issue immediately, and your identity will be kept private.
  • If that doesn’t help, take it further up the chain of command.
  • If all else fails and your bully is making you physically or mentally ill, dust off your résumé and start looking for another job. You deserve so much better than a toxic work environment.

Please believe me that I know what it is like to be bullied at work – it’s something I endured working in restaurants, schools, and other settings. You don’t have to stand for it, you are so much stronger than you give yourself credit for, and life is too short for you to have to worry about the bully. Hopefully this has given you an insight into symptoms and solutions to deal with your bully.

Who is the meanest person you have ever worked with? Comment below!