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: II
- 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. Here's Part II of a series exploring some of these clichés.
- Looking the Other Way
- Sometimes when we notice wrongdoing, and we aren't directly involved, we don't report it, and we don't
intervene. We look the other way. Typically, we do this to avoid the risks of making a report. But looking
the other way is also risky. What are the risks of looking the other way?
- Confronting the Workplace Bully: I
- When a bully targets you, you have three options: accept the abuse; avoid the bully or escape; and confront
or fight back. Confrontation is a better choice than many believe — if you know what you're doing.
- How Workplace Bullies Use OODA: I
- Workplace bullies who succeed in carrying on their activities over a long period of time rely on more
than mere intimidation to escape prosecution. They proactively shape their environments to make them
safe for bullying. The OODA model gives us insights into how they accomplish this.
- Strategies of Verbal Abusers
- Verbal abuse at work has special properties, because it takes place in an environment in which verbal
abuse is supposedly proscribed. Yet verbal abuse does happen at work. Here are three strategies abusers
rely on to avoid disciplinary action.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 13: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: I
- To take the risks that learning and practicing new ways require, we all need a sense that trial-and-error approaches are safe. Organizations seeking to improve processes would do well to begin by assessing their level of psychological safety. Available here and by RSS on December 13.
- And on December 20: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: II
- When we begin using new tools or processes, we make mistakes. Practice is the cure, but practice can be scary if the grace period for early mistakes is too short. For teams adopting new methods, psychological safety is a fundamental component of success. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
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