National Bullying Prevention Month:
How to Deal with Bullying in the Workplace

October will be the 11th anniversary of National Bullying Prevention Month. The nationwide campaign serves to educate the public on the devastating results bullying has on children and young adolescents.

Workplace bullying can also negatively impact your overall job satisfaction, productivity, and health. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, 19 percent of U.S. Americans have suffered from abusive conduct at work, while another 19 percent have witnessed it.

Bullying is a huge issue nationwide. If someone is bullying you in the workplace, try implementing these tips to hold your ground.

  1. Set rules: It’s important to set rules when you first enter the workplace. Don’t let someone say something rude or inappropriate. You might think ignoring it is the most mature course of action. If this tactic doesn’t work after a couple of attempts, consider a different method. If they cross the line by saying something that makes you uncomfortable, confront them. Use a firm tone and the following: “I don’t want you to say/do X things. It makes me feel uncomfortable and I would appreciate it if you could keep those thoughts to yourself.” “What you said made me feel uncomfortable. Let’s try to keep the workplace atmosphere welcoming for everyone.”
  2. Record and document: Contrary to belief, workplace bullies can differ from school bullies. If you are more capable, skilled or talented in your field, there might be a workplace bully who envies your abilities and tries to bring you down. Be cautious and think carefully about whether you want to keep a diary. If you decide to write down in detail what what happens in the workplace, keep in mind that your colleagues will observe this. It is very hard to hide when an employee is documenting. Frequency and incident patterns may be information that makes it challenging for them to refute. If the bully starts to distract you from your work and negatively impact your day to day emotions, report to HR and try to resolve the situation. You have the right to protect your well-being and health. SOmetimes looking for new employment is the best option.
  3. Seek support: Consider talking to a trusted colleague or mentor about the challenge. Others might be oblivious and not see it as a problem. If it’s bothering you, it’s important to consult with a resource for a possible solution. Make sure you’re not over-reacting, taking it personally, or holding a personal grudge. Many times it’s completely unrelated. It’s crucial to be professional at work. Maintaining balanced emotions provides an opportunity to see the problem with greater clarity. If you don’t want to discuss this with your colleagues, communicate with HR or management.
  4. Leave: If you’re an intern, superiors might make you do menial tasks such as prepare smoothies, make coffee runs, or do personal chores for full-time employees. Yes, sometimes we all contribute to teamwork; however, request an opportunity to demonstrate that you have other skills. If they continue to be unwilling to assign projects, include you in business calls or invitations, it might be wise to look for organizations that truly appreciate your skills. This applies to full-time employees as well. If upper management seems aloof or unsympathetic to a legitimate problem that exists, explore other options to avoid working in a toxic environment.

Bullying in the workplace has heavy repercussions on your mental and physical health. Make sure to research the work culture of the organizations to which you apply. Good luck and we wish you the best in settling into a healthy work environment!

Sharon Schweitzer and Sunny Kim co-wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business,  Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.

Sunny Kim is a Fall 2017 Cross-Cultural Communication intern with Access to Culture. She is currently a junior journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin with a minor in Korean language and certificate in business. She is also the founder and president of UT Asian American Journalists Association. Her main focus is storytelling people’s diverse experiences relating to race and culture. Connect with her on Linkedin.

Photo credits: Pxhere