So You Want the Bullying to End:
by Rick Brenner
If you're the target of a workplace bully, you probably want the bullying to end. If you've ever been the target of a workplace bully, you probably remember wanting it to end. But how it ends can be more important than whether or when it ends.
The Headquarters of the Public Employees Retirement Association Building of New Mexico, which is also the headquarters of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission was the employer of Ms. Annette Prada for many years. For the last five years of her employment, according to her family and friends, Ms. Prada was bullied by senior managers. She was near retirement, and tried to hang on, but she was so affected that on November 29, 2012, she committed suicide. The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission claims that it never received a formal complaint about bullying, but it's difficult to confirm exactly what was happening, because Ms. Prada cannot tell her story herself. Photo courtesy the State of New Mexico.
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.
Next time, we'll survey approaches you can take yourself. Next in this series Top Next Issue
Are you being targeted by a workplace bully? Do you know what to do to end the bullying? Workplace bullying is so widespread that a 2010 survey indicated that 35% of workers have experienced bullying firsthand, and that bullying is about four times more prevalent than all other forms of illegal harassment combined. 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 USD 9.99, Order Now!
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More articles on Conflict Management
- Responding to Threats: Part I
- Threats are one form of communication common to many organizational cultures, especially as pressure mounts. Understanding the varieties of threats can be helpful in determining a response that fits for you.
- In workplace politics, some people always seem to be seeking information about others, but they give very little in return. They're pumpers. What can you do to deal with pumpers?
- False Consensus
- Most of us believe that our own opinions are widely shared. We overestimate the breadth of consensus about controversial issues. This is the phenomenon of false consensus. It creates trouble in the workplace, but that trouble is often avoidable.
- Workplace Bullying and Workplace Conflict: Part I
- Bullying is unlike other forms of toxic conflict. That's why the tools we use to address toxic conflict simply do not work for bullying. In this Part I, we contrast bullying and ordinary toxic conflict.
- Impasses in Group Decision-Making: Part II
- When groups can't reach agreement on all aspects of an issue, the tactics of some members can actually exacerbate disagreement. Here's Part II of an exploration of impasses, emphasizing two of the more toxic tactics.
See also Conflict Management and Emotions at Work for more related articles.
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