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Bullying Behavior – What Can I Do?
Submitted by Leslie Allan on September 3rd, 2011
I recently blogged about the alarmingly high rate of bullying in the workplace reported by the latest survey on workplace behaviors. It may be some comfort to know that you are not alone in dealing with an abusive manager or co-worker. But what can you do about it? And how can you help a friend or colleague who is a victim of a bullying relationship?
I want to say at the outset that there is no one single path that you can take to resolve your situation. How you respond is very much dependent on your particular circumstances. Bullying encompasses a broad range of behaviors, from unwanted remarks at one end of the spectrum to physical and sexual assault at the other. Your range of options is also dependent on how you handle conflict. Do you find it easy to confront people or do you break out in a nervous sweat just at the thought of telling a bully to stop?
Your organizational context also varies. Some organizations have strict anti-bullying policies and practices whilst in others they are non-existent. And for those organizations that do have formal systems in place, some put practice to their policies whilst others do to a lesser extent.
Think about your own support networks. Do you have a strong network of people that you can rely on or are you very much on your own? With that said, I list below some of your options. Consider each option in the light of the situational cues I outlined above.
- As an initial starting point, review the actual facts and how you are responding to them. Are you being objective in your assessment of the behavior? Is there a chance that your emotional response to your stressful situation is coloring your perception?
- Enquire about your organization’s anti-bullying policies and procedures. How is “bullying” defined in your organization? What is the procedure for dealing with a bully?
- Find a friend or colleague that you can confide in and who can act as a sounding board as you explore your feelings and options. Your confidante should be willing to challenge you and not simply be a “yes” person to everything you say.
- Tell the bully that you find their behavior unacceptable and why. You can tell them in private in order to minimize the likelihood of a defensive response. Or if you fear that you may evoke a violent response, engage a witness to your confrontation with the perpetrator.
- Report the bullying behavior to your human resources department, giving as much detail as possible about the bullying events. Where and when did they occur? What did the perpetrator say and do? If you report the incident/s and you hear nothing back from HR, follow up and keep following up until you get an outcome.
- If you find the bullying persists in spite of your actions, consult your legal attorney. Your legal advisor will help you review your options.
The options I’ve summarized above are not in temporal order and some may not apply to your situation. If you are helping a friend or colleague deal with bullying behavior, help them work through the above options. If you have a story to tell about how you dealt with a bully, please share your experiences here. Help others suffering bullying in their workplace learn from your story.
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