Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What to Do If You're Being Bullied at Work (Part 3)

We're going to wrap things up today, because all this talk about bullies has put me in a bad mood, and it's time for some resolution.

(That said, if you're suffering under a bully and would like to continue this conversation in private, please feel free to email me. I'm a real person, and I'll make time to talk to you. Promise.)

So let's go straight to the end game, then. What is yours?

If you're in the "let's nip this in the bud" phase of dealing with your bully, then I'm going to assume that that's what you wantto nip this in the bud and work peaceably with your coworkers. You like your job, you like most of your coworkers, and you like your employer and still feel loyal to the organization. That's fine, and I hope you can and do nip this crap in the bud.

If, however, you're like a lot of targets, and the bullying has kind of crept up on you and now you're a bit of a mess, you might have a different perspective. Because you don't like your job and you don't like your employer, who after all, gives the bully his power to torment you. And, most of all, you're becoming convinced that there's no help for you within the organization. You've confronted the bully, and you've complained to your boss, and she either couldn't or wouldn't help you. So now what? Well, I ask again, how are you? Up for the next leg of this battle? No? Then head directly to your physician's office. Yes? Then it's time to go to HR and file a formal complaint. Because your end game is to see this through to the end.  

If you work for a healthy organization with an effective HR department but a jerk boss and the occasional bully, there may be a glimmer of hope. However, if your organization is unhealthy, and HR can't solve the problem or is even part of the problem, any hope for resolving this within the organization is probably misplaced, but my advice is that you still file your complaint. If nothing else, the company is on notice that you're not going to let this slide. A formal complaint also increases your chances of successfully winning a retaliation charge, if God forbid things get that far. 

Did you know that I was in the workforce for fourteen years before I entered HR? Well, it's true. And during those years I encountered many an unhelpful HR professional, so I know how that can be.

Unfortunately, not all HR professionals are ineffective because they're incompetent. Some are ineffective because their organizations are dysfunctional, and there's nothing the HR professional can do about  it. 

Whatever your particular circumstance in this regard, if the bullying does not stop after your formal complaint, you still have a few options.

While bullying in and of itself is not illegal, if you're being bullied because of your membership in a protected class, that most certainly is illegal. And there are tortes and other laws that might apply. Of course, if you decide to file a complaint outside of the organization, you should consider talking with an attorney first. I'd also recommend speaking with an attorney if the situation has gotten so out of hand that you  have a medical record of the abuse. Your company may be willing to negotiate an exit package with you to make you go away quietly. That's what happened to this woman.  Actually, she received a package more than once, to hear her tell it.

Whatever happens next, I want to encourage you. Even when this situation looks its bleakest, there is hope. You won't always be working for these jerks. Honest. And when you're gone, and you've had time to heal and reflect and hopefully work for some decent human beings, you'll be able to look at your experience as a blessing in disguise when you're able to help someone else who's now where you were. And remember, I'm here if you need me.

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