WORK

You might brush off that snarky e-mail from a co-worker, but it’s a form of bul­ly­ing – and get­ting more com­mon. SASHA GON­ZA­LES tells you how to deal with it.

Simply Her (Singapore) - - Cover Reads -

The rise of e-mail bul­ly­ing.

When Ly­dia*, a 30-year-old mar­ket­ing man­ager, re­ceived a sar­cas­tic e-mail from her boss, she was crushed. The e-mail was sent to her, her team and sev­eral other de­part­ments, as if to pub­licly shame her.

“He had wanted me to send briefs to a few ad­ver­tis­ing agen­cies for an up­com­ing event, and asked to be copied on the e-mails,” Ly­dia shares. “He was ob­vi­ously not pleased with the ones I sent and made it clear in his mes­sage.

“In his e-mail to me, he told me that I’d put no thought into the briefs, adding that if he’d wanted to ap­proach the agen­cies that way, he’d have just asked his sec­re­tary to con­tact them. He also men­tioned that my briefs made me come across as stupid and des­per­ate.”

Her boss’ hurt­ful words cut so deep that Ly­dia didn’t go to work the next day, and avoided hav­ing lunch with her col­leagues for a week. She was just too hu­mil­i­ated.

“I with­drew for a while un­til the hoo-ha died down. In time, I stopped think­ing about the in­ci­dent, but when­ever I see my boss’ name in my in­box now, I have a sense of dread,” she adds.

Paul Heng, from Next Cor­po­rate Coach­ing Ser­vices, says this sort of e-mail is con­sid­ered work­place bul­ly­ing. It hap­pens when some­one mis­uses his po­si­tion to hurt, abuse or in­sult a col­league, thereby putting the lat­ter in a less favourable po­si­tion. The vic­tim feels pow­er­less to re­tal­i­ate or com­plain be­cause she is less se­nior, is afraid of get­ting into the boss’ bad books or fears los­ing her job.

When it’s Abu­sive

Most of us have re­ceived the odd curt e-mail from our bosses, re­mind­ing us to fol­low up on some­thing or warn­ing us not to drag our feet on a task, but a bul­ly­ing mes­sage is in a league of its own. Here’s how to tell: It Uses De­mean­ing Lan­guage Jennifer*, a 35-year-old sales man­ager, says her boss once com­pared her to a child who needed to be spoon-fed. “He e-mailed me say­ing that I couldn’t think for my­self and had to have my hand held ev­ery step of the way. Then he added: ‘We don’t need ba­bies in the of­fice. If you want to be­have like a baby, you

should just come to work in di­a­pers!’ I couldn’t be­lieve what I was read­ing. He made me feel so small.” It’s Hurt­ful and Hu­mil­i­at­ing The e-mail may have been copied to oth­ers who do not need to know about the is­sue. In this case, it is clearly meant to high­light your wrong­do­ing to oth­ers and hu­mil­i­ate you, or put you in a bad light.

“The dif­fer­ence be­tween an abu­sive e-mail and a strongly worded one is that the for­mer aims to make you look or feel bad,” says Jasveer Mal­lany, ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship coach, trainer and speaker at Ac­quire Coach­ing. Un­for­tu­nately, many of us tol­er­ate it be­cause we as­sume our bosses have a right to talk to us that way.

“Asians are gen­er­ally taught to not ques­tion au­thor­ity,” Paul says. “We are taught to treat our high­erups with rev­er­ence and we might view our own feel­ings or po­si­tion as unim­por­tant. That’s why many of us ac­cept what­ever our bosses dish out with­out ques­tion – even when we

should ques­tion it.” It Makes You Feel Scared Sharon*, 35, an ad­ver­tis­ing ac­count ex­ec­u­tive, says an ex-boss once sent her e-mails that threat­ened her job se­cu­rity. “Af­ter brief­ing me on an im­por­tant task, he would ex­plic­itly state that if I slipped up, I’d bet­ter start look­ing for em­ploy­ment else­where, be­cause he would not tol­er­ate sub-stan­dard work,” she ex­plains.

“I was shak­ing in my boots un­til the pro­ject was over. Not sur­pris­ingly, I only lasted five months in that job. But be­fore I left, I re­ported the threats to my HR man­ager. My boss was rep­ri­manded and made to apol­o­gise to me in per­son.”

Deal­ing With an E-mail Bully

You should not ig­nore it, hop­ing it’ll go away. Here’s what you can do: Speak to the sender im­me­di­ately Jasveer says you should clear up the mat­ter as soon as pos­si­ble. “Talk about it to get some clar­ity,” she says. “For all you know, your boss or col­league may just be hav­ing a bad week and is tak­ing out her frus­tra­tions on you. You could say: ‘I was quite up­set by how you worded your e-mail. If my work hasn’t been up to scratch, can we dis­cuss it faceto-face in­stead of on­line?’

“You must not be afraid to stand up for your­self,” she adds. “Ad­dress th­ese prob­lems right away be­cause it’s im­por­tant to build and main­tain con­ducive work­ing re­la­tion­ships with your bosses and col­leagues. How can you work to­gether if one of you feels vic­timised or threat­ened?” Talk to a Su­per­vi­sor If your col­league in­sists there is noth­ing wrong with his e-mails, re­quest a chat with your su­per­vi­sor and ask your HR man­ager to sit in on the meet­ing. Show them print­outs of the e-mail – be sure to save the soft copies in a sep­a­rate folder in your in­box. Ex­plain how the bul­ly­ing has af­fected you, and dis­cuss what can be done to stop the ha­rass­ment.

Bring it up with HR

If the bully is your boss and he is not open to dis­cussing the mat­ter with you, bring it up to your HR man­ager who can help me­di­ate – you have a right to work in an en­vi­ron­ment that is non-hos­tile and non-threat­en­ing. Write a for­mal let­ter of com­plaint about what’s been hap­pen­ing, and give it to your HR man­ager in per­son along with copies of the e-mails.

Jasveer says that no one should have to quit their job be­cause they are be­ing bul­lied. “Bul­lies are peo­ple who have been or are be­ing treated badly them­selves, so they think it’s ac­cept­able to act in the same way to oth­ers. Don’t al­low your­self to be a tar­get of their in­se­cu­ri­ties.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Singapore

© PressReader. All rights reserved.