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Office Politics: Why it's important to keep your cards close to your chest when facing workplace bullying.

Published 04 February 2014

Workplace bullying is an issue that is the bane of many who have to deal with unacceptable levels of harassment in their place of work on a daily basis. This week our guest blogger Eva James; a writer, legal secretary and vehement anti bullying campaigner; gives her advice on how to deal with the anger one will naturally feel when they are being bullied and/or harassed in the workplace. Find out more about Eva, her experiences and get some great tips by reading her blog and follow her on twitter @bulliedbyboss.

Often, I get asked what people should do first when they’re being bullied at work.
The biggest thing to do is the hardest – but it has a knock on effect for everything else. It’s managing the anger and frustration that comes from being targeted while others watch or, more likely, turn a blind eye.
It’s natural that we want to hit back, especially when we feel we’re not surrounded by supporters. We want to prove the bullying is happening, stop it and seek some form of justice.

In anger, we can show our cards too readily to make a point or to issue an ultimatum. In the firm I was bullied at, I saw employees Googling ACAS in front of managers, composing long and rambling grievance letters, loudly talking about Employment Tribunal claims, taking extended leaves of absence due to stress, walking out and even a fight in the office. I was able to see the bigger picture.

Anger, more often than not, will make you look like the problem and this is exactly what the person bullying you is trying to engineer. The more you react, the more it reinforces whatever they’re saying about you. Colleagues who would have been on your side will then not be sure. As far as they can see, you’re the person who needs anger management therapy or some kind of stress relief.

So be clever. Write down instances of bullying but keep it to yourself. Think of it as insurance in case you are left with no choice but to ask HR for help. If you engage with anti-bullying organisations, and I highly recommend that you do if you’re in this position, do so discretely. Start engaging help, but help that no-one is aware of but you. Talk to friends and family outside work but make sure they keep it to themselves. You are buying time until you are forced into action. In this period, record what is going on, garner support and collect information about your options. Don’t lose sight of the fact that anything can happen: the bullying could abate, you could find a better job or your bully could leave. And if it gets to the point where your job or sanity are really in jeopardy, you’ll already have support set up outside work.

In the film Primary Colours, when the politician Jack Stanton is asked why he doesn’t engage in political smear tactics against someone who is smearing him, he says: ‘So I don’t give that ******* the power to make me the ********.

It’s a strange one, but it’s true. Not playing their game probably the only chance you’ll win.

Very best

Eva James

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