Are You Being Bullied at Your Office?

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Walk away from a tirade: You can also walk away. As a child, you might have had to sit still and take it from an intimidating parent; not so at work. Stand up and excuse yourself. "I have to go to the restroom." "I have an appointment." "I need some water." This is especially useful if you're on the verge of getting emotional which you don't want a bully to witness.

Confront the bully calmly: When you've taken a breath and have had a chance to compose your thoughts, calmly confront the bully. Cite examples of the behavior that has been humiliating or demeaning and state that you expect it to stop. No name calling, just facts delivered in a reasoned manner.

Document the abuse: Documenting bully behavior is really important. Without the facts of when, where, witnesses and so on all clearly spelled out in writing you risk being brushed off as a petty complainer or tattletale. You can sound like you're upset that someone is picking on you or that you're thin-skinned. Going to HR or a top manager is serious -- and to be taken seriously you want to present the facts. Facts are much harder to dispute and to ignore than emotions. And by putting everything in writing as it happens, you're less likely to forget key details.

Find a new job: If management doesn't help you, find a new job. No job is worth risking your mental and physical health -- or repeated blows to your self-esteem. You must control your sanity and your self-worth -- and that sometimes means removing yourself from a culture or situation where you believe both are in jeopardy.

Several states have anti-bullying legislation pending. But until workplace bullying is illegal, it's often costly and undesirable for targets to pursue legal remedies. While I wholeheartedly agree that nobody should be driven out of their job because of a bully, finding another job makes a lot of sense in theory. In reality, most people don't have the time or the means to bring about prolonged legal action. It's often quicker and healthier to get out of a bad situation and find new work.

While some critics argue that leaving is exactly what the employer or the bully wants -- to drive you out -- your mental health and well-being should be your primary concern. Don't stay in a toxic environment simply because you're not willing to give a bully the satisfaction of seeing you walk out.

Even if you're not a target, workplace bullying is a serious issue that every worker should care about. If you see something, say something. Don't allow your colleagues to suffer in silence. You don't have to be confrontational, nor should you spread gossip, but be willing to defend a co-worker who you believe is being mistreated.

Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor on "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire. Reach her at www.womenforhire.com

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