In Part I, we explored various definitions of and reasons why bullying happens at work. In Part II, you are presented with options along with reminders tips if you are being bullied at work.
Bullied At Work: Your Options
Here are some options you can consider if you are bullied at work. There is no one-solution fits all. Clearly, your decision to deal with bullying depends on your physical and mental health, as well as your level of self-confidence.
While you cannot control another person’s behaviors, you can control the manner in which you respond. Here are some considerations as you decide how to move forward:
- Challenge your bully – it may be uncomfortable, especially if you like to avoid conflict, but it is a chance to let the bully know you are on to him (or her). It is also a chance, given you are alone in a conference room, to ask them what they hope to accomplish by bullying you. Make them articulate the answer.
- Documentation – it can be tricky to gather hard evidence if you are bullied at work. On the surface, emails and verbal comments may seem innocuous to outsiders. My suggestions if you want to start a paper trail: 1) summarize each individual meeting, conversation or interaction with the perpetrator, 2) send these summaries to all who were present, 3) request any objections to your summary be emailed back to you, 4) repeat until everyone has concurred. This could be timely but worthy if you are trying to gather evidence.
- Direct management – do you trust your immediate manager enough to voice your concerns? If so, voice them cautiously. From the manager’s perspective, you may come across as whiney or entitled. The last thing a manager wants is to diffuse a personality conflict among employees. Therefore, your direct management may do what it takes to make this go away; be prepared to not like the response.
- Indirect management – do you dare go above your immediate manager and voice your concerns to upper management? If your direct supervision is part of the problem … then, perhaps the answer is yes. Again, do so cautiously. Chances are that upper management does not want to hear about personality problems with subordinates. In their minds, they don’t get paid to perform conflict resolution. Prepare yourself for undesirable outcomes.
- Colleagues, friends, family – perhaps venting is okay once or twice, but put yourself in their shoes. When you consistently vent that you are bullied at work, yet you do not help the issue, you will turn people off. They will stop listening or avoid you. Take precaution if opening up to colleagues! You never know who they rub elbows with when you are not around, and your complaints could backfire.
- Bring a business case to HR – if you think HR is the route for you, listen up. Document and calculate dollars lost due to the bullying. For example, how much time are you not working during the day due to the bullying? How much time is the bully not working due to the bullying? Tally your sick days and doctor visits. Which projects or assignments have been late due to your distress? Chances are, walking into an HR office with a list of complaints won’t get their attention. However, providing a list of estimated dollars lost makes for a stronger case.
*As an aside, I happen to think it is ludicrous for any HR office to turn a blind eye to bullying complaints. It is tragic if they show no empathy for your human feelings; dollars lost should be a trivial matter.
- Legal counsel – if this is the route for you, then prepare to pay. You will pay with your time and your money. I caution you to not get attached to a positive outcome. Lawyers are not magicians. Sometimes, all the money in the world cannot buy the outcome you’d like.
- Therapy – per psychologytoday.com, the definition of therapy is: Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy or usually just “therapy,” is a form of treatment aimed at relieving emotional distress and mental health problems. Provided by any of a variety of trained professionals—psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, or licensed counselors—it involves examining and gaining insight into life choices and difficulties faced by individuals, couples, or families.
- Quit – and hope your next work environment is friendly.
- Life Coach – what I teach as a life coach is a critical meta skill that can be applied to any area of your life. It is the skill of recognizing and reframing your thoughts/beliefs to a manageable state for a healthy, coherent life. In other words, I teach you the art of adapting your brain’s beliefs to life circumstances, which liberates you from futile attempts to seek out the ‘right’ situations.
We go to work because it provides a living: salary, benefits, retirement, promotions, etc. However, if these are the end goals of your career, you may be missing the whole point. While these features are wonderful, they are merely byproducts, or results, of your career. They are not the purpose of your work.
The purpose of your career is:
- Service: contribution toward something greater than you as an individual … for the sake of serving
- Development: evolve your skills and progress your character by defeating obstacles and challenges
- Legacy: manipulate your authentic skills to impact a job/company and leave it in a better position than when you started
Having stated this, everyone’s challenge is to fulfill this career purpose despite circumstances, despite negativity, despite bullies.
There is something magical about showing up, serving, performing your best, and rising above the attacks. But, this requires stamina, courage and high self-confidence.
If you are bullied at work and it’s overwhelming and you fear for your well being, take action to stop the bleeding. Careers are fluid and unpredictable, your health is priceless.