Dealing with Negativity and Harassment at Work

By ColumnsFOXBusiness

The overwhelming drop in national workplace morale has most certainly caused a rise in negativity at work.

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This increased negativity can often lead to various forms of harassment and just plain discomfort at work. Yes, going to work is getting tougher. And, the majority of the negativity and nonsense that happens at work doesn’t necessarily meet the threshold of Title VII harassment, but it’s still a problem worth addressing.

Stress caused by abusive behaviors can lead to disengagement, higher incidents of sick leave, and lower productivity. So, when it comes to dealing with negativity and harassment at work, there are some things that you, as an employee, can do to mitigate some of these ill effects.

Know the Norms: Just as every culture has its own set of rules and norms, so do companies.

When starting a new job or beginning work with a new client, pay attention to the rules and norms they live by. Every work environment has its own standards for behavior and it is up to you to figure them out and adjust your behaviors accordingly. Don’t be afraid to ask if you are unsure of what’s appropriate and what’s not.    

Know Your Boundaries: It's just as important to respect yourself as it is to respect the culture you operate in.

You must know yourself before you worry about trying to get to know others, and you have to be true to yourself and know your boundaries for personal and professional comfort. Just because a particular behavior is a norm at the workplace doesn’t mean it is right for you. So, be sure to understand your own personal boundaries when it comes to physical contact and verbal banter.

Watch for Cues: Pay attention to those around you. Put down your PDA, smartphone, or whatever mobile leash is attached to your hand and pay attention to the person in front of you.

Negativity and harassment aren’t just things that are perpetrated upon you, you can also be a perpetrator. Make sure to take notice of how your colleagues react to your teasing and banter and be sure to adjust accordingly. Not everyone may think you are as cute and amusing as you do, so be sure to check yourself.

Have a Conversation: If there is one thing I will preach until the day I die, it’s engaging in dialogue. Conversations are the elixir of misunderstandings. Speaking up is never easy, but it’s such a critical part of success in life. Keep in mind we are all victims of living in our own heads. In other words, the message we are sending isn’t necessarily the message that is being received. It’s important to reach out and communicate with those who may be offending you because many times it may just be a misunderstanding. Don’t be afraid to speak-up when you feel someone is crossing a personal boundary. Just be sure to do it in a respectful way.

If you are reading this it’s likely that you work a lot; you probably spend most of your waking hours working and this probably isn’t going to change anytime soon. So, it’s up to you to take charge of your life and do what you can to make your work experience the best it can be. Know your environment, know yourself, pay attention to those around you, and don’t be afraid to speak up.

Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership.  

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