If you're the target of a workplace bully, and the situation is so severe that you cannot function, cannot sleep, are experiencing depression, are abusing family members, are considering suicide, or are fantasizing or planning illegal acts of revenge, staying on the job is a bad idea. It might even be the worst idea. If staying on is a clear and immediate danger to your health and safety, escape isn't cowardly — it's necessary and smart. Take paid leave, or take unpaid leave, or transfer internally, or find work elsewhere, or if conditions warrant, quit.
Some targets stay on because "I don't want to give him the satisfaction." That's understandable. But if your life, your health, your freedom, or the lives of loved ones are at risk, get out. Get help for getting out if you need it. Now.
If the situation is at least barely tolerable, if you're miserable and angry, but your health and safety aren't in immediate jeopardy, then you have options beyond escape, which is always an option. Let's look at some of them.
The possible outcomes include terminating the bully, or compelling the bully to stop bullying, or compelling the bully to find a new target instead of you. There are two classes of approaches to making one of these happen. First, you can seek an intervention by someone or some agency with the necessary clout. Second, you can do it yourself.
Seeking intervention by someone or some agency is a common approach, but results can be disappointing.
- You can't rely on HR
- Some targets believe that the Human Resources department can help: Surely they will intervene and make the bullying stop. Would that this were true. The people in HR might be sympathetic, but their choices are usually limited. Their primary function is to protect the employer. Typically, their actions are limited by the requirement that they not expose the employer to civil or criminal liability. There are exceptions, but cover-up and transfer are the most likely outcomes.
- Legal approaches provide little relief
- The nature and extent of legal protection for targets of workplace bullies varies dramatically with jurisdiction. Moreover, since the field is so new, you must use care in selecting counsel. Find a practitioner with specific expertise in workplace bullying. You might do better if you're a member of a protected class and you can approach the problem that way.
- Management has its own agenda
- Management's role The people in Human Resources
might be sympathetic, but
their choices are usually limitedis to help the organization fulfill its mission. Some managers might be helpful to targets of bullies, but most are focused on "getting the job done." Don't count on much, especially from the bully's supervisor.
Is a workplace bully targeting you? Do you know what to do to end the bullying? Workplace bullying is so widespread that a 2014 survey indicated that 27% of American workers have experienced bullying firsthand, that 21% have witnessed it, and that 72% are aware that bullying happens. Yet, there are few laws to protect workers from bullies, and bullying is not a crime in most jurisdictions. 101 Tips for Targets of Workplace Bullies is filled with the insights targets of bullying need to find a way to survive, and then to finally end the bullying. Also available at Apple's iTunes store! Just . Order Now!
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More articles on Workplace Bullying:
- Hurtful Clichés: I
- Much of our day-to-day conversation consists of harmless clichés: "How goes it?" or
"Nice to meet you." Some other clichés aren't harmless, but they're so common that
we use them without thinking. Maybe it's time for some thought.
- The Costs of Threats
- Threatening as a way of influencing others might work in the short term. But a pattern of using threats
to gain compliance has long-term effects that can undermine your own efforts, corrode your relationships,
and create an atmosphere of fear.
- The Paradox of Structure and Workplace Bullying
- Structures of all kinds — organizations, domains of knowledge, cities, whatever — are both
enabling and limiting. To gain more of the benefits of structure, while avoiding their limits, it helps
to understand this paradox and learn to recognize its effects.
- So You Want the Bullying to End: II
- If you're the target of a workplace bully, ending the bullying can be an elusive goal. Here are some
guidelines for tactics to bring it to a close.
- Entry Intimidation
- Feeling intimidated about entering a new work situation can affect performance for both the new entrant
and for the group as a whole. Four trouble patterns related to entry intimidation are inadvertent subversion,
bullying, hat hanging, and defenses and sabotage.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming April 1: Incompetence: Traps and Snares
- Sometimes people judge as incompetent colleagues who are unprepared to carry out their responsibilities. Some of these "incompetents" are trapped or ensnared in incompetence, unable to acquire the ability to do their jobs. Available here and by RSS on April 1.
- And on April 8: Intentionally Misreporting Status: I
- When we report the status of the work we do, we sometimes confront the temptation to embellish the good news or soften the bad news. How can we best deal with these obstacles to reporting status with integrity? Available here and by RSS on April 8.
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