By and large, it’s safe to say that just about everyone wants to work in a place that’s fun, friendly, and fulfilling. Yet, more often than we think, people have to deal with a manipulative colleague at work. According to statistics released by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries on Workplace Bullying and Disruptive Behavior (which you can check out here) over 41 per cent of the workers polled in a 2006 poll reported they had experienced psychological aggression at work during the course of the previous year. That’s 47 million workers that were bullied on the job at least once; the same report says 13 per cent of workers (roughly 15 million people) are being bullied regularly.
Further stats, published in an article in The New York Times (Backlash – Women Bullying Women at Work) says that 60 per cent of all workplace bullies are men. These males bully men and women with equal measure, whereas female manipulators are more likely to pick on ‘victims’ of the same gender. Like all cases of bullying, this aspect, too, has a lot to do with the pressure to succeed in today’s stress-filled labor market. In the following, we explore some of the causes of manipulation and aggression on the job and try to offer you some helpful tips on how to deal with a manipulative colleague at work.
Why do workers manipulate their colleagues? Causes and effects
The causes are multifaceted and numerous – however, they can all boil down to several factors, which we have all experienced at least once over the course of our work history. They include stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, and toxic relationships. However, they also feed into a vicious circle, in which those bullied, aggressed, or manipulated, come to experience some of the same feelings, to which they also add increased blood pressure, sleeping and eating disorders, absenteeism, low productivity, and troubled relationships. In turn, this also comes to impact the entire company. A company which has to deal with manipulated workers can be met with some of the following issues:
– Increased costs, owing to hiring and training new employees. These employees, if manipulated and/or bullied, run the risk of not lasting too long on the job. Thus, their employer can lose all they had invested in training them, when said employees switch jobs for a workplace where they don’t feel threatened.
– Low productivity. Stressed out, manipulated, and bullied workers cannot be reasonably expected to perform well on the job. They will lose work days and avoid facing their aggressors, which will take a toll on the company’s efficiency and bottom line.
– A bad reputation. Suffice to say that, no matter how difficult the current working enviroment, word gets around when a company fails to adequately protect their employees against harrassment and manipulation. Such a company might then face trouble in hiring new ones, to replace the workers that have abandoned ship.
What can help you deal with a manipulative colleague at work?
There are several strategies you can employ, if you have to deal with a manipulative colleague at work. They range from personal action to collective initiatives, which ultimately stand to gain all those involved – management and workers alike.
- Demand improved policies against bullying, harrassment, and manipulation. If your company has some sort of system for addressing employee issues in place, don’t hesitate to take advantage of it. Draft a collective statement from as many co-workers you can rally with your cause, and ask for zero tolerance against those that pollute the working environment with their malice.
- Talk to the people in charge. Even if collective action is, for some reason, not available to you, you should still have the right to address your direct in command or human resources department with your complaints against the manipulator. Hint: if these people don’t seem to empathize with your issues, perhaps you should consider getting a job some place else anyway.
- Understand the manipulation and bullying is not your fault. This is perhaps one of the most difficult pieces of advice on how to deal with a manipulative colleague at work that you can implement. It’s hard not to take things personally, but with the right mindset and perhaps even some professional help, you, too, can overcome the challenge of having been manipulated at work.