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Bullying Behavior – What Can I Do?

Submitted by  on September 3rd, 2011

Business man with question mark as his headI 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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Posted in Change | Comments (3)

3 Responses to “Bullying Behavior – What Can I Do?”

  1. Rob Britt Says:

    You’ve raised some good points here. Bullying definitely doesn’t stop after people graduate from school. Having proven methods to combat it helps.

  2. Leslie Allan Says:

    Thanks Rob for your positive comments. I feel organizations and individuals need to do much more to wipe this scourge from our workplaces.

  3. Bernie Althofer Says:

    Plan for the day that you will be involved in a workplace bullying incident. Counterproductive behaviours such as bullying and harassment and sexual harassment are like a fog surrounding everyone. There is no universally accepted definition and understanding of what is and what is not bullying or harassment. Some Governments have chosen to use workplace harassment in lieu of workplace bullying as ‘bullying’ is too emotive.
    Resolution options may be documented in policies and procedures but from experience, they are ineffective for some people. The first option is to do nothing. This allows the target/victim to walk away without confronting the alleged bully or even from reporting the incident. The alleged bully is unaware that their behaviours are intimidating, threatening or offensive.
    This topic has been discussed in some depth in other forums such as LinkedIn, and even in HR Daily and Human Capital Magazine. Despite the extensive discussions, mainly from those who have been supporting those being targeted/bullied or even from some targets/victims.
    We have choices in life. Given that some data suggests that one in 5 will be targeted, one in 5 will be an alleged bully, that leaves 3 in five to be witnesses or bystanders. We can be part of the problem or part of the solution. In doing so we need to be able to treat others with respect and dignity. If you ask me what have I done, I wrote a book because from my experience, the victim/target, the alleged bully, the organisation, the medical and legal professionals, the family/friends and associates, the investigators and the media were not asking some of the questions that needed to be asked.
    All too often organisations and individuals think that a policy will solve it. In actual fact, a good policy is only part of the solution. As Les has indicated, implementation and change are also part of the solution.

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