Dealing with workplace bullies

Some simple advice to help you put a stop to intimidation.

By Emily Kimber

Speaking out against workplace bullying

Playground bullying is a well-recognized problem with far-reaching social implications. At an early age, teasing, taunting and alienation can be seriously detrimental to the self-esteem and social confidence of a child. But what happens when the playground bully grows up and gets a job? Sadly, bullying often doesn't end with adulthood. Instead, hair-pulling and name-calling can give way to more grown-up forms of intimidation.

Awareness about workplace bullying is growing in Canada. In a 1999 International Labour Organization report, researchers warned that physical and emotional violence are becoming some of the biggest issues facing the workplace going into the 21st century.
At some point, you may very well find yourself confronted by a bully in a workplace situation -- knowing how to deal with him or her is essential. Knowledge is power, so here's what we know about office bullies.

Understand what you're dealing with
According to Canada's Safety Council, more than 80 per cent of bullies are bosses. Makes sense -- not too many mail clerks are likely touse intimidation tactics on the company's CEO. And contrary to popular belief, bullies don't go after the weakest link, they tend to aim for the strongest. The Safety Council's report states that bullies pick on capable, co-operative people they identify as a threat.

Many bullying victims don't realize they are being bullied because they aren't doing anything wrong and because a higher-up is doing it. Sheila, a journalist, says the harder she worked, the meaner her boss would be. "If I got a great story, I'd never be congratulated. Instead, he'd find a way to work my country accent or my klutzy ways into the conversation," she says. "It was so inappropriate." Sheila was lucky, her boss was let go for other reasons, but that won't usually be the case. So, here are some practical ways to handle this tough situation, as well as the legal implications of allowing workplace bullying to continue.

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