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:
- Covert Bullying
- The workplace bully is a tragically familiar figure to many. Bullying is costly to organizations, and
painful to everyone within them — especially targets. But the situation is worse than many realize,
because much bullying is covert. Here are some of the methods of covert bullies.
- When the Chair Is a Bully: I
- Most meetings have chairs or "leads." Although the expression that the chair "owns"
the meeting is usually innocent shorthand, some chairs actually believe that they own the meeting. This
view is almost entirely destructive. What are the consequences of this attitude, and what can we do about it?
- See No Bully, Hear No Bully
- Supervisors of bullies sometimes are unaware of bullying activity in their organizations. Here's a collection
of indicators for supervisors who suspect bullying but who haven't witnessed it directly.
- 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.
- Social Isolation and Workplace Bullying
- Social isolation is a tactic widely used by workplace bullies. What is it? How do bullies use it? Why
do bullies use it? What can targets do about it?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming August 12: Cognitive Biases at Work
- Cognitive biases can lead us to misunderstand situations, overlook options, and make decisions we regret. The patterns of thinking that lead to cognitive biases provide speed and economy advantages, but we must manage the risks that come along with them. Available here and by RSS on August 12.
- And on August 19: Motivated Reasoning: I
- When we prefer a certain outcome of a decision process, we risk falling into a pattern of motivated reasoning. That can cause us to gather data and construct arguments that lead to the outcome we prefer, often outside our awareness. And it can happen even when the outcome we prefer is known to threaten our safety and security. Available here and by RSS on August 19.
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