Your boss just broke a cup in your face….welcome to Workplace Bullying 101. (Part 1 of 2)

Bullying in the workplace is a topic that is very close to my heart, since it is something I have lived through and have a lot of experience with. Today I am going to detail some signs/symptoms of bullying in the workplace and then on Wednesday I am going to share the good and bad things I did in my situation that can help you come to a quick resolution. I am unsure if it is the recession making non-sexual harassment take a climb, but from all of the posts I saw on the internet in my research for this piece I can tell it is something more and more people are having to deal with. Perhaps it’s the rarity of jobs, the pressure put on business leaders to perform, their subsequent need to drain blood from every possible economic stone, whatever the reason-there are too many bullies in this world as it is.

Someone ponders aloud, “Am I gay?”. The response in this joke is usually “If you have to ask…you probably are.” The same can be said for bullying in the workplace–if you have to ask (or look online) you are probably being bullied. And bear in mind that just because they are paying you to show up does not mean they are paying to push you around.

You may be being bullied if…..

1.) You feel like you are being singled out.-Feel like nothing you ever do is good enough for your boss? Even if co-workers end up turning in same level or less average work than you do? You’re not being “sensitive”. Conversely if you see your boss singling out others for no apparent reason-that fiery gaze may soon turn on to you.

2.) The adjectives used are inappropriate-A boss has every right to express concern about your job performance. A boss or manager should never use the following adjectives:”lazy”, “stupid”, “dumb” or make any assumptions about your personality: “selfish”, “manipulative”, “greedy” or “uncultured” (yep, I’ve gotten this one.) Unless a boss says, “You’re being really selfish with the donuts on donut Monday”-I can’t really see anyone working this into a job-performance related conversation.

3.) The tiniest infractions are cause for a meltdown– Ask any of my former co-workers about a certain “Lemon Snapple Incident” and we would all roll our eyes and laugh. At the time, however, it was a warning sign for a much bigger problem. We had run out of Lemon Snapple at the office and the boss gave all three admins a scathing tongue lashing about how our jobs were to “anticipate” even the smallest needs. Even after we offered to run down to the drug store and get him some Snapple he shook his head and pouted in his office the rest of the day making passive aggressive remarks.

I’m not saying a boss doesn’t have every right to be demanding, they absolutely do. I imagine the fun part of being a boss is sending people on errands and making subordinates do things you don’t feel like doing anymore: like spreading mustard on your sandwich (yep, this one too….). Some of the more mundane and interesting requests come with being an entry level employee or assistant-it’s part of the territory and you are paying your dues. I never felt bullied when I put a condiment on a sandwich. I did feel harassed when I got blessed out for getting it on the crusts. You’d have thought I burned his house down or something.

If you work for someone who turns each incident into an infraction worthy of a firing-keep your eyes peeded for more bad behavior. You have a bully on your hands.

4.) They take EXTRA time to humiliate/humble you- A boss I once had frequently told me how valuable his time was and how I needed to make SURE everything I handed to him was perfect. Of course, when something was astray he took a good deal of time repeating the problem to me-once, twice, and then a third time. Once, he had me restaple 150 packets of documents so that every staple in the document was at a perfect 45 degree angle, and then made me restart whenever he came across a wrong staple. Re-do them all.

It took me the better part of my third day at my new job to finish the stapling. It taught me a lesson for sure about proofing your work, but apparently he still had plenty of time in his day to belittle others.

5.) Things escalate into borderline physical- I’m not talking about getting frisky in an office here–I’m talking about things that feel physically threatening and cause your adrenal gland to pump in that all-too-familiar “fight-or-flight” response through your veins. Things such as: repeated incidents of yelling, door slamming, pounding fists on desks, kicking or breaking items. Especially if it is a male/female superior-subordinate relationship these things should absolutely not be happening. It is not in the best interest of the boss to act this way and if you are an employee you should DEFINITELY not stand for this behavior.

I don’t think any boss should yell at a subordinate unless you work in the Pentagon and accidentally detonate China, or you erased every single file on your network, but what do I know? Those doctors on Grey’s Anatomy are always yelling at one another about surgeries (or sex…)but they face life-or-death situations every day so I imagine that is warranted too.

For the rest of us? We are mostly just paper pushers. There isn’t too much that can’t be undone or anything worthy of a raised voice.

Symptoms of Workplace Bullying

Sometimes you can be bullied and may not believe/want to admit to yourself that you are. Here are some subtle subconscious signs that maybe things at work are taking a turn towards the unhealthy.

1.) You can’t go to bed without a drink– Having a cocktail after work with friends or  to commiserate an especially taxing day is one of the most fun perks of being a working adult. Some people need a drink to go to bed and it is a compulsion completely unrelated to work, but you probably know yourself. If you’ve been working for years and suddenly have to have a drink before bed to deal with your mounting anxiety about going to work the next day-you are in trouble.

2.) You start calling out of work-even when you’re not sick-That drink didn’t work? If you are like me and can remember the days in Middle School when you would beg your mother to let you stay home because you couldn’t bear the whispers/eating lunch alone/whatever… you should be able to see calling out as the adult equivalent. Sometimes playing hooking can be amazeballs. Yet, if you’re avoiding work because you don’t want to deal with your boss or because you literally feel like your nerves cannot take one more verbal bashing…you are being bullied, and it’s affecting your work performance.

I’d used to get ominous emails late at night on Sunday-“Stop by office first thing Monday. We need to talk.” Guess who has the flu? I also think my Grandma may have died. Twice.( Sorry,Grandma.) Aside from the fact you could replace “Office” with any other location and have a break-up text on your hands…your boss is being ultra manipulative.

3.) Decreased confidence and self-esteem– I get it, how you’re feeling about yourself can be pretty hard to monitor-but if you’re the type of person who USED to be so excited, hard-working and confident in the work you were putting into the company and suddenly you are second guessing your every move to please your boss? Chances are you may have been bullied to the point where you don’t trust yourself. Your boss may have rattled your self-esteem so much you don’t believe in yourself enough to get the job done the way you used to.

Have I scared you enough yet? Don’t worry…my post tomorrow is going to cover what to do in case any of the above is happening to you! Stay tuned, and feel free to leave your comments below!

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12 thoughts on “Your boss just broke a cup in your face….welcome to Workplace Bullying 101. (Part 1 of 2)

  1. Hey! I clicked over from GMBMFB and find this very interesting. I’m sorry to hear you experienced some workplace bullying! The only kind I’ve ever lived through was from the students, and that just kind of comes with the territory as a teacher, haha.

  2. wow, this post really hits homes with a lot of jobs I have had and have today. it makes me sick how much bosses take advanatge of their power. i hate it & it makes me not want to work anywhere ever. I have never not had a bad boss.

  3. I’m definitely being bullied at my job. I’m a SAHM and my boss is 12 months old, but don’t let those cute, chubby cheeks fool you! She bites HARD.

    In all seriousness, I feel so sorry for people who are in a bad working relationship like some of the examples you gave…but feel that they don’t have any other choice. It’s tough to land a good job these days, so I think a lot of people might even feel that they have to put up with more abuse to keep their positions.
    -M

  4. BUT MUSTARD ON MY CRUSTS IS LIKE A NUCLEAR DETONATION OF CHINA IN MY MOUTH. Oh wait, the crusts taste exactly the same? ohokaynevermind.

    Love you. This is awesome. I think an unhealthy number of us can relate.

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  7. I wish I had known about bullying point #3 a few years ago. I’ve had scathing conversations and e-mails about mild punctuation errors. The e-mails frequently had more errors than my original error. I felt like there was nothing I could do to please my boss, and I’m very glad I don’t work there anymore.

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