Workplace bullies are everywhere. They’re often your co-workers — not just your managers. A bully at work can make your entire day miserable, leave you with a shaken sense of self-worth and erode your confidence in your own abilities.
However, is bullying the same as retaliation? Sometimes it is.
You have to examine your individual situation to determine if you’re a victim of retaliatory bullying. One of the biggest questions to ask is, “Why are you being targeted?” Is your gender or gender identity an issue? Is it your race or national origin? Are you outspoken about something that is wrong in the workplace, and are others upset that you’re challenging the status quo?
While managers might retaliate through unwanted changes in your hours or duties, negative job performance reviews and demotions, co-worker retaliation in the form of bullying can be more subtle. Often, it involves petty comments designed to antagonize or demean you or attempts to make you feel isolated. Anyone who associates with you may also be targeted — until they, too, step away.
When co-worker retaliation happens, it can be openly supported or quietly condoned by the company’s management team. They’re seldom unaware that it is happening. However, managers may choose to behave as if they don’t see what is going on right in front of their eyes. In essence, they’re letting their employees do their dirty work.
That’s why it’s important to document all the instances of bullying that you experience, including hateful emails, spiteful comments, times you were purposefully left out of meetings or given misinformation. It’s also important to document who was aware of the situation and your attempts to work out a constructive solution with your management team.
It’s also important to take a stand for yourself against any form of retaliation or bullying. For example, if you receive an unfair evaluation, you can sign that you acknowledge receipt of the evaluation only — not agreement. That leaves the door open for you to challenge the review in the future.
Workplace retaliation in the form of bullying is a real issue for many. It won’t stop until the consequences for the bullies outweigh the gains.