Take a Stand Against Workplace Bullying
By Anthony Mikatarian
“Whoever is trying to bring you down is already below you.”
~ Ziad K. Abdelnour.
According to research, workplace bullying is rampant in the United States. Although the research is general and across all professions, we as law enforcement officers can learn a thing or two, unless we are a profession free of workplace bullying. Think about that for a moment… Now that we are on the same page, let’s resolve to take a stand against workplace bullying. Each of you is worthy of respect and fair treatment from your peers and superiors. Bullying by adults has no place in our profession. None. Our noble profession deserves better. We are the defenders of the weak, and voices of voiceless; therefore, we must defend our fellow officers who may be victims of adult bullying and stand together to rid this blight from our profession.
The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) defines workplace bullying from their 2017 National Survey as repeated mistreatment of an employee by one or more employees; abusive conduct that is: threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, work sabotage, or verbal abuse. They refer to the bullying as “abusive conduct,” to its most serious forms only. Based on this survey, they found, in part, the following key factors:
• 19% of Americans are bullied, another 19% witness it
• 61% of Americans are aware of abusive conduct in the workplace
• 60.4 million Americans are affected by it
• 70% of perpetrators are men; 60% of targets are women
• Hispanics are the most frequently bullied race
• 61% of bullies are bosses, the majority (63%) operate alone
• 40% of bullied targets are believed to suffer adverse health effects
• 29% of targets remain silent about their experiences
According to bullyingstatistics.org, there are five types of adult bullies. Identifying any of these types in your workplace can arm you with knowledge, should you encounter any of these types.
Narcissistic Adult Bully: Are self-centered; does not share empathy with others; have little anxiety about consequences; feels good about themselves, but in reality has a brittle narcissism that requires putting others down.
Impulsive Adult Bully: Are more spontaneous and plan their bullying out less. Even if consequences are likely, have a hard time restraining their behavior. This type of bullying may be unintentional, resulting in periods of stress, or when the bully is upset or concerned about something unconnected with the victim.
Physical Bully: Rare for adult bullies, bullies that use physicality; in some cases may not physically harm the victim, but may use the threat of harm, or physical domination through looming; also may damage or steal a victim’s property, rather than physically confronting the victim.
Verbal Adult Bully: Words can be quite damaging; may start rumors about the victim, or use sarcastic or demeaning language to dominate or humiliate another person; a subtle type of bullying advantage and often difficult to document; emotional and psychological impacts of verbal bullying such as reduced job performance and depression.
Secondary Adult Bully: Does not initiate the bullying, but joins in so that they don’t become a future victim themselves; and may feel bad about what they are doing, but are more concerned about protecting themselves.
Chances are you may have come across one or more of these above types of adult bullies in your workplace. Identifying them can help you respond appropriately. According to an article on psychologytoday.com, here are eight ways to react when confronted with adult bullies:
1. Keep Safe: Protect yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable with a situation, leave. Seek help and support if necessary.
2. Keep your distance and keep your options open. Unless there’s something critical at stake, don’t expend yourself by trying to grapple with a person who’s negatively entrenched. Whoever the person, keep a healthy distance, and avoid engagement unless you absolutely have to. When you’re “stuck” with a very difficult person, and there’s “no way out,” think outside the box. Consult with trusted friends and advisors about different courses of action, with your well-being as the number one priority.
3. Keep your cool and avoid being reactive. The less reactive you are to provocations, the more you can use your better judgment to handle the situation. Some bullying scenarios may require a strong and assertive response, while others may be handled simply, with you being unimpressed. Either way, keep your cool when you approach the situation. Maintain superior composure.
4. Know your fundamental human rights: to be treated with respect; to express your feelings, opinions and wants; to set your own priorities; to say “no” without feeling guilty; to get what you pay for; to have opinions different from others; to take care of and protect yourself from being threatened physically, mentally or emotionally; and to create your own happy and healthy life.
5. Utilize assertive and effective communication when you are required to deal with an adult bully, strengthen your position by utilizing assertive communication skills.
6. Talk about your experience. Being a quiet victim is not only mentally and emotionally unhealthy, but it can also encourage the bully to repeat and intensify their aggressive behavior. No matter how difficult the circumstance, seek out trustworthy individuals to confide in. Sharing your experience is not only cathartic; the support you receive may often strengthen your ability to handle the challenge.
7. In serious situations, proactively deal with the problem early on and formalize your communication. Let yourself, not the bully, be the one who sets the tone of the relationship. Whenever possible, formalize your daily communication with the bully by either putting things in writing or having a third party present as a witness. Identify whether there may be other victims of the bully, and consider a joint, formalized response. Leverage strength in numbers.
8. Set consequences to compel respect. The ability to identify and assert consequence(s) is one of the most important skills you can use to “stand down” a difficult person. When effectively articulated, strong and reasonable consequence(s) gives pause to the adult bully and compels him or her to shift from violation to respect.
Hopefully, these findings help bullying victims and open the eyes of peers and management. If you are a bully, resolve to end your conduct and begin creating a healthier work life for all. And one last note, if you are reading this and are in a serious situation, seek professional legal advice. You do not have to tolerate bullying from anyone. God bless and stay safe!
Anthony Mikatarian has been a police officer for over 17 years. He is currently assigned to patrol in a northern NJ municipality. He earned a Bachelor’s degree from Johnson & Wales University, Providence, R.I., and another degree in Mortuary Science from the American Academy McAllister Institute in New York City.