• Linda R. Taliaferro

How to Handle Workplace Bullying

When we think of "bullying," most people think of schoolyard teasing, taunting, and name-calling—even physical altercations.

And if you've experienced bullying as a child, you know that, even in adulthood, it can conjure up feelings of anxiety, fear, embarrassment, anger, and helplessness.

It's very much the same when bullying happens in the workplace. I've experienced it myself, and let me tell you…the trauma is REAL.

I was so excited to have had the privilege of speaking with my guest for this week's edition of Being Brown At Work Live, Zenica Chatman. She joined me to discuss the critical topic of workplace bullying, how to identify it, the harm it can cause, and how to deal.

Zenica's experience with a pair of workplace bullies sparked her interest in coaching and positive psychology. Today, she's a certified personal and executive coach who helps women rediscover their inner strength and confidence in the aftermath of workplace-related trauma. She helps leaders develop their own unique leadership styles and create work environments that are safe and equitable. She also helps women establish healthy relationships with work and puts them back in the driver's seat of their careers.

What is workplace bullying? Are you a victim?

Zenica uses the Workplace Bullying Institute’s definition of bullying, which is “repeated, health-harming mistreatment by one or more employees.”

It can show up in several ways:

  • Verbal abuse

  • Threatening

  • Intimidating

  • Not getting invited to work meetings

  • Denying your PTO for questionable or undisclosed reasons

  • Being the target of jokes and pranks in the workplace

  • Work interference or sabotage

Zenica explains that any of the above, especially if it's deliberate and occurs repeatedly, is an example of workplace bullying. If you can relate to anything on that list, your leadership or colleagues have likely crossed the line and are exhibiting bullying behavior. Over a period of time, these situations can wreak havoc on your self-confidence, job fulfillment, and productivity.

The impact of workplace bullying on people of color

People of color in corporate America may not readily identify workplace bullying, because we're often told that "it's just the way it is."

Zenica explains that, in the past, we didn't have a name for what we were experiencing. However, as our community becomes more aware of what's acceptable and what isn't, we've been able to put a name to workplace bullying, increasing its prominence as a serious issue in recent years.

As Black and Brown women, Zenica stresses the importance of communication. It's time to start sharing our experiences, and stop suffering in silence.

If you’re experiencing workplace bullying…

  • Know that YOU’RE NOT ALONE.

  • Give yourself the space to acknowledge whatever your feelings are related to, and that your feelings are valid

  • Break the silence. Find someone you trust, either at work or in your circle, and share what you’ve been experiencing. Mentors and advocates are also great people to have in your corner, if possible.

  • Don’t believe the hype! Internalizing the criticisms and lies of a workplace bully can be extremely dangerous personally and from a career perspective. They can't break your confidence unless it gets in you! Drop the toxicity so you don’t carry it with you into a new job or position.

  • Recognize that this is NOT a hopeless situation. There's so much better out there for you.

If you're dealing with bullies at work, help is available. Check out Zenica’s website for tons of helpful resources. Also, if workplace bullying has shaken your self-confidence, be sure to download my FREE GUIDE: Workplace Confidence for Black & Brown Women. The journey to the top can be tough, but with the right support, you’re unstoppable! You got this!

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