Workplace Bullying in Disguise: 6 Subtle Forms of Aggression
Imagine you’re at work, and your boss is constantly giving you backhanded compliments. They’ll say things like, “Wow, you must be really smart to be able to do that,” or “That was a good presentation, considering you’re not used to public speaking.” Their comments are subtle, but they’re designed to undermine you and make you feel bad about yourself.
Or, maybe you have a coworker who’s always taking credit for your work. They’ll steal your ideas and present them as their own, and they’ll never give you credit for your contributions. This can be incredibly frustrating and demoralizing, and it can make you feel invisible and undervalued.
These are just two examples of subtle workplace aggressions that can be just as harmful as overt bullying. In fact, subtle bullying can be even more insidious because it can be difficult to identify and address.
What is Workplace Bullying?
Workplace bullying is repeated and unwanted behaviour that is intended to intimidate, humiliate, or control another person. It can take many different forms, including:
- Verbal abuse, such as insults, threats, and put-downs
- Physical abuse, such as shoving, hitting, or grabbing
- Emotional abuse, such as gaslighting, social exclusion, or sabotage
- Social abuse, such as spreading rumours, gossiping, or ostracizing someone.
Six Subtle Workplace Aggressions
Subtle workplace aggressions are less overt forms of bullying that can be just as harmful. Some examples include:
- Gossiping and spreading rumours
- Passive-aggressive behaviour
- Withholding information
- Backhanded compliments
- Taking credit for others’ work.
How to Recognize Subtle Workplace Bullying
It can be difficult to recognize subtle workplace bullying, especially if you’re new to a job or if you’re not sure what to look for. Here are some signs that you may be experiencing subtle workplace bullying:
- You feel anxious, stressed, or depressed when you think about work.
- You dread going to work.
- You have trouble concentrating and getting your work done.
- You feel like you’re constantly being criticized or judged.
- You’re constantly being left out of important meetings or discussions.
- You’re being given unrealistic deadlines or workloads.
- Your work is being sabotaged.
- You’re being excluded from social activities at work.
What to Do If You’re Being Bullied at Work
If you’re being bullied at work, there are a few things you can do:
- Document the behaviour. Write down what happened, when it happened, and who witnessed it. This will help you to build a case if you need to report the bullying to your supervisor or human resources department.
- Talk to your supervisor or human resources department. They may be able to help you to resolve the situation or to take disciplinary action against the bully.
- Talk to a trusted friend or family member. They can offer support and advice.
- Seek professional help. A therapist can help you to cope with the emotional effects of bullying and to develop strategies for dealing with the bully.
Good information is available at the following websites:
Q: What is the difference between subtle workplace bullying and overt bullying?
A: Subtle workplace bullying is less overt and more difficult to identify. It can involve things like micromanaging, gossiping and spreading rumours, and passive-aggressive behaviour. Overt bullying is more direct and can involve things like verbal abuse, physical abuse, and emotional abuse.
Q: What are some of the signs that I may be experiencing subtle workplace bullying?
A: Some signs that you may be experiencing subtle workplace bullying include feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed when you think about work, dreading going to work, having trouble concentrating and getting your work done, feeling like you’re constantly being criticized or judged, being constantly left out of important meetings or discussions, being given unrealistic deadlines or workloads, having your work sabotaged, and being excluded from social activities at work.
Q: How can I differentiate between constructive criticism and workplace bullying?
A: Constructive criticism aims to provide feedback that helps an individual improve their performance, while workplace bullying aims to belittle, undermine, or control an individual. Constructive criticism is specific, actionable, and delivered respectfully.
If you have having difficulties with workplace bullying and not sure if you can handle it inhouse – contact Jolasers who can undertake a workplace bullying investigation.