As promised yesterday, today I’m going to talk about what to do if you’re being bullied at work.
In a recent CareerBuilder survey, nearly 35% of respondents reported being bullied in their workplaces, up from 27% the year before. Nearly 17% of those individuals quit their jobs as a result. That statistic may be surprising, given the economy, but working with a bully can be hell and cause serious health problems to boot.
So, if you’re working with someone who just won’t take no for an answer and/or who uses his power to demean, threaten, and otherwise make your workday an anxiety-filled nightmare, what are you supposed to do?
Well, that depends.
I’m going to give it to you straight. Research indicates that bullies are allowed to do their thing with impunity in about 77% of cases (and that certainly fits with my anecdotal evidence). So, you’ve got your work cut out for you.
That said, there are some things you can do depending on your company culture, company policies, stamina, and end game.
But first. How are you? If the answer is “really, really bad,” then my unsolicited advice is for you to seek medical attention before you do anything else. I’m serious about this. If you are experiencing the physical symptoms of being bullied I mentioned yesterday then you may not be ready to handle this particular issue yet, and there’s no shame in it. To quote that doctor from the classic movie Mirage, you’ve been bruised. It’s okay to seek medical attention for your injury. When you get stronger you can reevaluate your options.
If the bullying has yet to affect your person, and your bully is generally approachable when he’s not being a jerk, you’ve got a choice. I don’t know your bully, and I don’t know you, but if you think it would do some good, you can approach the bully about his behavior. Let him know firmly but courteously that you won’t tolerate his bad behavior. You may see an immediate change, and that’ll be the end of it. I once confronted a bully, a quickly flare-up/quickly cool-down kind of guy, and he was never inappropriate to me again. Later he even hired me! So, this approach can be effective, but you’re going to have to go with your gut to determine whether this is an action that might work for you. If you aren’t sure, seek counsel from a confidant—someone who knows the organization and you. This person could be your boss (assuming she’s not the bully), someone in HR, or simply a good, trustworthy friend.
But what happens if you confront the bully, and the situation doesn't change or actually gets worse?
We’ll talk about that tomorrow.