From the desk of Penelope Alice, Britain’s most fabulous PA – PA Life Club

From the desk of Penelope Alice, Britain’s most fabulous PA

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I think all of us know that the office environment breeds odd behaviour in some people. One of the most common negative traits of your every day desk jockey is the tendency to gossip, but what happens when the chit-chat goes a bit too far and turns into bullying?

It’s sad to say that even grown men and women can stoop as low as telling tall tales and making threats against colleagues, but here are some tried and tested ways to recognise and stop harassment.

Recognise when it’s gone too far Sometimes bullying can start from an innocent joke. While most of us know what’s appropriate for the office, some people aren’t sure how to tell when they’ve taken things too far thanks to the awkward situations we see characters get into on our favourite TV programmes. Different people have their own comfort level, though, so it’s important to keep the jibes in check – and don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel a colleague has got out of hand.

Know the signs Threatening behaviour takes on many forms, from picking on someone and undermining a colleague’s competence to unfair treatment and spreading negative rumours. If you think any of this is happening to you, it can cause heaps of stress and make it difficult to do your best. Which is why the next step is so important.

Speak up It’s hard to be the one to say something about inappropriate behaviour, but sometimes it’s the easiest way to make it stop. If you’re pals with the person making crude jokes, pull them aside and have a chat about it. Most of the time, you’ll find he or she didn’t realise the joke was offensive and will put an end to it. A more hostile co-worker might be more difficult to deal with, so that’s when it’s time to call in the reinforcements.

Get the boss involved When trying to handle the situation on your own doesn’t work, the only way to go is up. A manager or somebody from the HR department will have the knowledge to deal with bullies accordingly. Get your complaint in writing so there’s a record of it in case things don’t go well. Hopefully there will be a peaceful resolution, but there are rare cases when legal action may become necessary.

Stand up to bullies If you’ve ever experienced harassment yourself (which sadly happens to us ladies more than we’d like to admit) you know how important it is to stop it quickly. Be a role model in your office and stand up for others. There’s nothing better than being seen as a strong woman, so get your claws out and defend yourself.

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