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Spending 40 hours a week in a workplace that is teeming with negative energy and stressful situations can prevent you from doing your job correctly. Workplace bullying can be hard to define, but essentially it can be identified as harmful, repeated actions by one or more employees that can include physical or verbal assault resulting in distress and the inability to focus on job requirements. While physical forms of bullying are easy to identify, other forms of bullying like withholding information or discreetly sabotaging a project are more difficult to address because of the covert nature in which the perpetrator harasses. Manipulative behavior can be difficult to address because it is meant to confuse and isolate you so you feel like nothing can be done about it, but bullying in the workplace can be handled in the following ways:

Assess if confrontation is possible. A workplace bully is unlikely to change their ways just because you ask them too. Oftentimes they are insecure and will become hostile if confronted, or even worse, will start portraying themselves as the victim. Use your best judgement to determine whether this person will be open to a conversation about the inappropriate behavior. However, don’t be surprised or let down if this is not possible—bullies rarely can be swayed by logical conversations.

Take time off if needed. Workplace bullying can feel like high school all over again; a small, inescapable environment facing the same people day in and day out. Don’t underestimate the toll this kind of stress can take on you, and consider taking some of your vacation days to recuperate with friends and family to ground yourself and plan your next move.

Approach your employer if the problem persists. If this individual is relentless, review employment policies and plan a meeting with HR or management. Unfortunately, employers won’t usually respond well to an emotional appeal, so make sure you bring some sort of documentation and prepare talking points so your employer sees the severity of the situation. If you have a good relationship with the company and feel your voice will be heard, don’t be afraid to contact HR about the bullying—if not, it might be time to explore other employment options.

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