Workplace bullying and intimidation are two separate issues that are often confused as the same thing. Before taking action against a bully in the workplace, employees in Illinois should consider if their perpetrator’s actions are actually bullying or if they are the result of intimidation.

The definition of workplace bullying

The Workplace Bullying Institute defines workplace bullying as any behavior that is driven by the perpetrator’s need to control their co-workers, compromises the business’ interests, uses specific methods in certain locations, has real emotional, psychological and physical consequences for its victims and often escalates to include others who usually side with the bully. For example, an employee constantly receives negative emails from one of their co-workers and fears coming into work every day. After speaking with their co-worker about their behavior, the situation only gets worse.

In comparison, intimidation occurs when one employee uses tactics to inspire fear, frustration, inadequacy or awe in another, states Chron. For instance, a new, younger employee attempts to voice his opinions in his company’s regular staff meetings. However, whenever he speaks, an older and more experienced worker disagrees and then comes to the other employee’s office after the meetings and contemptuously explains the reasoning behind his opinions.  After trying different techniques, the abused employee was able to end the situation. Since the employee had the power to stop the bully’s behavior, it would be considered intimidation instead of bullying.

Dealing with intimidating behavior at work

There are several steps employees can take to define whether the situation is intimidation or bullying and potentially stop the harassment. These include the following:

  • Step one—Employees should think about whether their co-worker is just unkind or if the behavior prevents them from fulfilling the responsibilities of their job.
  • Step two—Employees should find ways to distance themselves emotionally and physically from the bullying. For example, instead of dwelling on the bully’s behavior, they can focus their efforts on their daily tasks.
  • Step three—Employees should keep in mind that they cannot change the bully. Instead of attempting to change the employee’s behavior, they should do what they can to end the relationship.
  • Step four—If employees are ever threatened with physical violence, they should report their co-worker’s behavior.

Once employees attempt to distance themselves from the bully and have reported their co-worker’s behavior to their superior without success, they may want to consider finding another job in a different department or at an entirely new company.  Additionally, bullied workers may benefit from meeting with an attorney who can hold the bully accountable for their actions.