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Tips on How to Survive Remote Worker Bullying

Updated: Jan 10

The move to the virtual sphere means that hostile behavior can take place more covertly, as bullies can hide behind a screen By Sophie Jarvis I December 7, 2021

A study conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute found that ‘43.2% is the bullying rate for those doing remote work’. The move from the office to virtual workplaces has only exasperated workplace bullying, as it is more difficult for employers to monitor and witness incidences of unpleasant behavior. Additionally, the move to the virtual sphere means that hostile behavior can take place more covertly, as bullies can hide behind a screen. If you find that you’ve fallen victim to remote workplace bullying, we’ve put together some suggestions for coping with this behavior:

Document all incidences of bullying: Whether it’s unpleasant emails or inappropriate messages, keeping a paper trail of what’s occurred will make any complaints procedure easier to handle. Take screenshots of any interactions you’ve had and write down incidences of bullying in virtual meetings. This will help you recall information when needed, and it also provides a timeline of events. Using Track and Assess will allow you to create a private record of workplace bullying, which can be turned into a report that can then be passed to HR or management.

Find out the company’s policy on bullying: Such a policy will outline what sort of behavior is acceptable, what is classed as bullying, and how to address a problem. If your company doesn’t have such a policy, or if it doesn’t include remote work arrangements, then speak to the HR department to request that it gets updated.

Try to nip it in the bud early on: If you feel like you can address the problem head-on, try speaking to the bully directly and challenge their behavior. Quashing bullying early can be the best way of ensuring that it doesn’t escalate.

Speak to someone in power: If someone’s actions are making you feel uncomfortable, or you feel as though you are being unfairly targeted, then speak to a manager or HR representative that you trust.

Raise a formal complaint if you feel that the situation isn’t improving: In the case that you’ve reported the situation to someone in power, but nothing has improved, then you can initiate an internal complaints procedure.

Gather witnesses: It’s worth bearing in mind that you’re unlikely to be the only target of the bully’s behavior. If you witness others being victim to unpleasant behavior in virtual meetings, in email threads, or on group chats, then speak to them privately so that you can make a case together.

Take care of your mental health outside of work: Remote work makes it difficult to separate one’s work life and personal life. With this in mind, make a concerted effort to care for your mental wellbeing outside of work by setting clear rules for yourself regarding switching off from work, and taking the time to do the things you enjoy.

Try not to take it personal: It can be hard not to take someone’s unpleasant behavior towards you to heart, but bullying often says more about the bully than it does the victim. Bullies often behave the way they do due to insecurities or the desperate need to feel control. Find someone to talk to outside of work: Make sure that you have a strong support network around you, and speak to them about any issues you’re facing in the workplace. They will be able to give you a different perspective, offer advice, and provide much-needed support.

Look for a new job: If despite following the above advice the situation isn’t improving, it might be worth looking for a new job. Don’t see this as admitting defeat, but rather taking the necessary actions to prioritize your happiness.

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