A recent article from the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), “The Street: Recognizing that you are being bullied at work” is interesting, as some of the forms of behavior outlined in the article were very common occurrences in my former workplace.
I think if you are a self-aware person who generally is concerned with treating others with dignity and respect in the workplace, and you feel that someone has often done or said things to you that you suspect are wrong, trust your own instincts, in particular if you feel upset by the behavior. Unfortunately, as the WBI discusses, there isn’t much that will be done to protect you, and if seeking a legal remedy, this requires very thick skin and a penchant for major uncertainty during the process!
Many of the ‘subtle signs’ as outlined in the aforementioned article happened to my coworkers and I, as we had the privilege of working with a manager who had a number of narcissistic tendencies. Through the complicit support of human resources and other members of management, we were retaliated against for openly complaining about this particular manager.
The behaviors we experienced included, but were not limited to management/HR doing the following:
- Ignoring e-mails from coworkers and I;
- Attempting to isolate my coworkers and I from one another through various means (including eventually firing people);
- Announcing “model employee”* promotions in front of the group;
- Minimizing or ignoring harassing or bullying behaviors from other coworkers, and directing blame towards the victims. Retaliation occurred when we called out these behaviors as inappropriate;
- Taking credit for good work done by others;
- Omitting information, such as limiting people from interaction with clients, or discussing at the minimum (or not at all) industry conferences which were attended/presentations being given by management;
- Inappropriately calling my coworkers and I into irrelevant meetings, and discussing one coworker’s personality traits and personal life in an inappropriate way during one meeting (since this person’s work was of high quality, it was difficult for management to provide constructive feedback); and,
- Manipulating the workload of my coworkers and I so as to provide too much or too little work.
So, according to the examples above, my coworkers and I worked in a subtle bullying environment and even at times an overt one. The overt stuff is easier to identify, but the subtle stuff is not fun to deal with. No matter how you slice it, it’s always about manipulation and control, but it is never appropriate or necessary.
*by “model employee” I mean an employee who never openly complained about managers. In the context that the promotion was done, it was one form of publicly ranking employees in order to create a competitive work environment. This created hostility when it was obvious that the person being promoted had quite a bit less education and experience than my colleagues and I.