Bullies come in more forms than children on the playground. They can also show up at your 9-5. One in 10 women who left their employer in the last 12 months did so because of bullying or harassment. They were also facing microaggressions. This is a stark reality for women of color, who are more likely to have experienced microaggressions in the workplace than white women. Microaggressions can include being talked over or interrupted in meetings, consistently addressed in an unprofessional or disrespectful manner, being undermined, repeatedly told disparaging and belittling comments about oneself or others, and being excluded from interactions and conversations.

We spoke with Caitlyn Kumi, founder of Miss EmpowHer, on how to identify microaggressions in the workplace and tips on how to approach them while protecting your psychological safety. Here are a few of her tips on how to deal with a workplace bully:

Build a Support System 

Speak to a therapist or life coach to help you process your emotions. Kumi recommends having a mentor you can speak to outside of your organization to help you navigate through the bullying and harassment you are facing.

Document Everything

As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know. It’s what you can prove.” Unfortunately, this is true even in toxic workplace environments. Document these incidents via email or save message threads of bullying incidents. Hopefully, you won’t have to use this documentation, but it helps to have everything written down just in case.

“It’s extremely challenging to prove bullying when there is no written account,” Kumi says.

Attempt to Build Trust With Your Workplace Bully

If you can humanize the workplace bully by initiating conversation, you can build trust and possibly resolve the conflict. 

“Some individuals don’t realize their behavior is creating a hostile work environment,” Kumi explains. “Ask them about their communication style, performance expectations, and how they measure success. Share your communication preferences, performance expectations, how you measure success, and your workplace boundaries.”

Report it to a Superior and HR

If the situation worsens, Kumi recommends working with your HR or leadership team to change managers. Ask your HR department for a conversation and speak with senior leadership on your team. Speaking up is not easy, but it’s the only way to call out this type of toxic behavior.

Begin Looking for a New Role Externally

Sometimes, the best way to deal with a toxic workplace is to walk away. Nothing is more important than taking care of yourself. Your well-being and mental health always come first. For additional action steps and advice, Kumi recommends reading “Right Within: How to Heal from Racial Trauma in the Workplace” by Minda Harts.