Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 13, Issue 35;   August 28, 2013: So You Want the Bullying to End: Part I

So You Want the Bullying to End: Part I

by

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 of New Mexico

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 limited
is 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.

Inb two weeks, we'll survey approaches you can take yourself. Next in this series  Go to top Top  Next issue: The Retrospective Funding Problem  Next Issue

101 Tips for Targets of Workplace BulliesAre you being targeted by a workplace bully? 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 USD 9.99. Order Now!

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More articles on Workplace Bullying:

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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?
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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.
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Overtalking is the practice of using one's own talking to prevent others from talking. It can lead to hurt feelings and toxic conflict. Why does it happen and what can we do about it?

See also Workplace Bullying and Conflict Management for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

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Ramblers are people who can't get to the point. They ramble, they get lost in detail, and listeners can't follow their logic, if there is any. How can you deal with ramblers while maintaining civility and decorum? Available here and by RSS on April 5.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2016And on April 12: How to Listen to Someone Who's Dead Wrong
Sometimes we must listen attentively to someone with whom we strongly disagree. The urge to interrupt can be overpowering. How can we maintain enough self-control to really listen? Available here and by RSS on April 12.

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