Brandman faculty member Catherine Mattice has been studying workplace bullying and its effects on targets and businesses since 2004, when she was in graduate school at San Diego State University. “I worked with a bully,” says Mattice, “and not only did I experience the effects on an individual – me – but I saw the repercussions his behavior had on the whole office. I decided to write a paper on this person for school so I could understand him and the office dynamics, and came across the term ‘workplace bullying.’ Turns out academics have been researching this phenomenon for 25 years, and things went from there.”
Mattice recently released a a new book for targets of workplace bullying, entitled, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work. The book includes a foreword by another local author and world-renowned leadership guru, Ken Blanchard, who calls it, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” It is available on Amazonand Barnes & Noble.
Bullying isn’t isolated to the school yard – it happens among adults at work too. “This might sound shocking at first read, but according to many national and international studies approximately 35% of the workforce is bullied at work,” she said.
Workplace bullying is repeated and ongoing psychological abuse, including aggressive communication, humiliation, and manipulation. Examples include yelling, getting into personal space, using punitive punishment, uber-excessive micromanagement, and spreading rumors. Bullying causes psychological and physical damage to targets of the behavior, as well as witnesses, as they are often depressed, fearful and anxious, which leads to sleepless nights, stomach aches and even heart problems. Recent studies have even linked workplace bullying to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Mattice was inspired to write the book because she was frustrated by the resources currently available to targets. “A lot of what’s ‘out there’ victimizes targets and tells them there’s nothing they could do differently and that the bully is evil. But there’s always choices, and my book provides them,” says Mattice. The book provides education about bullying, several tips on communicating with a bully, and a checklist of things to do before bringing the issue to the attention of human resources.
For example, the book suggests that targets of bullying be aware of their body language. “When we are in fear, we tend to fold in and give off the signal that we are afraid,” claims Mattice. “Instead stand tall, shoulders back, toes pointed forward, hands at your side, and chin up. While subtle, these moves signal that you are confident and ready to take on the bully.”
Targets should also document the bullying. Each time it occurs targets should write down the who, what, when, where and why, and keep any emails or other tangible documents that prove the bullying.
Finally, when talking to human resources, talk about the bullying behavior, not about your feelings. Many targets are not heard because they focus the conversation on them and how they hurt. Unfortunately they are then seen as the problem. Instead, focus on the bullying behavior and why it hurts the organization.
Mattice, who teaches communications courses for the Brandman University online campus, owns and operates the training and consulting firm, Civility Partners, LLC (www.CivilityPartners.com), whose mission is to eradicate workplace bullying and help clients create a positive workplace culture. Civility Partners runs the educational website, www.NoWorkplaceBullies.com, for targets and employers seeking information about workplace bullying.