Putting a stop to workplace bullying is not easy; however, if it is allowed to continue, both you and the company suffer potentially long-lasting effects as well as immediate effects. Instead of just putting up with the behavior and attempting to ignore it and the effects it is having on you, it is time to tighten the laces on your running shoes, pull your belt a notch tighter, and get your game plan on.
Statistics tell us that approximately 90% of workplace bullying is done by a co-worker (18%) or boss (72%) and that 80% of the bullying is legal; however, legal does not necessarily make it right or acceptable. Additional bullying statistics gathered by the Workplace Bullying Institute and reported by The Kansas City Star show that 69% of the bullies are men with 31% being women, women are targets 60% of the time, and that the age group most targeted by workplace bullying is between 40 and 55 years of age.
In Part 2 of this series we discussed what you can do to take control of the bullying behavior away from the bully. If you have been unable to regain control of the situation and put a stop to the bullying you have been experiencing, the next step is to get your company involved.
This is the scary part of the whole process. One of the biggest fears of bullying victims is that they will not be believed—that the bully and his or her “stories” will be believed over their reports of being bullied. This is a legitimate fear and many stories are out there of instances where this has happened and nothing has been done to stop the bullying at work. Accept this fear as part of the process of putting a stop to the bullying behavior and move forward in spite of your fear.
So whom do you talk to when reporting a bullying co-worker or boss? Make an appointment with your Human Resource department; this is the first step in getting your company involved with what is happening.
By this time you should have quite a file built up documenting the bullying you have been subjected to, how the bullying has affected you mentally and physically, what steps you have taken to put a stop to the bullying, and management’s responses to your reports of being bullied. My hope is that you have not been keeping this file at work where there is a good chance it can be tampered with, used against you, or destroyed but, instead, have this file safely stored at home either in a paper file or electronic file on your home computer. In this file you should have a list of dates, times, places, what was said or done and who was present for each instance of bullying.
Before you contact your Human Resources department, you should have assembled the following:
- Decided what outcome you are looking for.
- What you want the company to do.
- Laid out how the bullying is affecting the company.
- Printed out the file you have kept detailing the bullying.
- Obtained copies of harassing or bullying paper trails that include copies of documents contradicting the bully’s accusations against you such as time sheets, audit reports, etc.
- Possess a copy of your company’s guidelines regarding harassing or bullying behavior and the steps the company will follow in investigating any instances of reported bullying.
One important thing to keep in mind is that detailing the physical and mental impact on you personally more than likely will scare the employer and have a negative impact on your case. Yes, these are very important factors because they impact how you perform at work; however, focusing only on the physical and mental impact can lead employers to feel you may be unstable emotionally or physically and this can make it seem as if you are vulnerable and somehow deserving of the bullying. Remain objective instead of complaining or venting and you will send the message that you are both fair and demand to be taken seriously.
When you meet with your Human Resources department, what can you expect to happen? While you may feel a formal investigation is the only way to solve the bullying problem, that option may not always be the best option. After meeting confidentially with you, hearing your concerns, and looking over your documentation, if the bullying behavior has not involved legal concerns such as sexual harassment or workplace violence, the Human Resources department will help you strategize different approaches you can take in your efforts to combat the bullying, including:
- Help with coping and stress management.
- Developing skills and strategies for working with or around the bully.
- Confronting the bully in an appropriate manner.
- Asking Human Resources to step in to create awareness and advise the bully against further acts or retaliation.
- Refer you to experts such as the employee assistance program, career and performance coaches, training and professional development professionals, or other resources.
Reporting the bullying behavior to the Human Resources department is not a quick fix but they have the training to deal with workplace bullies and bullying behaviors that most managers do not have. The steps they help you strategize will take time and effort to become fully effective; however, your best bet is to work through each step fully and completely. Not all bullying behavior will be stopped, unfortunately, by getting the company involved.
If you have followed through with all the steps and resources recommended by Human Resources and the bullying still continues, you will have some decisions to make that may include leaving your current employer and looking for work with another company. That one decision, however, can carry serious long-term consequences involving you and your family’s economic future so please, consider doing everything you can to change the bullying behavior by going through the proper channels before you decide you have no alternative but to quit your job.
Part 4 of this series on workplace bullying will look at some of the reasons bullies bully in the first place.
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