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How to Confront Workplace Bullying

Tips for dealing with the workplace bully

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Updated June 10, 2014

Business people talking in office
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When it comes to workplace bullying, there are no quick fixes. But there are some things you can do to confront the behavior. The top three things you can do include taking care of yourself, addressing the bullying and seeking outside support. Here are some ideas on how this can be accomplished.

1. Take Care of Yourself

Learn to recognize bullying. When you realize that you are being bullied, you will be less likely to blame yourself or take responsibility for something that isn’t your fault. Remember, bullying is about a choice the bully makes, not something defective in you.

Realize that you can change your response. Although it is impossible to change someone who doesn’t want to change, you can change how you respond. Take some time to think about how you want to handle the situation. Do you want to search for a new job? Do you want to report the incident? Do you want to request a transfer? Only you can decide how you want to address the situation.

Learn how to set boundaries. Be upfront and direct with the bully about how you plan to address his behavior. Learn to be firm, confident and assertive. For instance, you could tell the bully if he continues to threaten you with job loss and to sabotage your work, that you will report his behavior to human resources.

2. Address the Issue

Keep a journal. Be sure to document any improper behavior. This information will help managers or outside organizations take action. Be specific about what you write down. Include the date, the time, the location, the incident that occurred or words that were said and any witnesses to the event. It also may be helpful to include how it made you feel or how it affected you. You also should record details about complaints that you filed and the responses you have received.

Create a paper trail. If you notice your work is being sabotaged, be sure you create a paper trail outlining what you are working on and what you have accomplished. If a bully is trying to force you out or squash your chances for promotion, the best way to fight back is to make sure others are kept abreast of your projects. Use e-mails, activity reports and other tools to share with your co-workers and supervisors what you are doing. Be humble in emphasizing your accomplishments, but be sure people are aware of the work you are doing.

Report incidents. Being silent about bullying gives the bully more power and control over you. When you feel ready, you need to report the bullying to a manager, supervisor, or another person in a position of authority. Remain calm and keep your emotions in check when sharing details about the bullying. Overly distraught complaints are distracting and may make the message confusing. Also, be consistent with details. It may be helpful to write out what you want to say ahead of time.

Keep your report relevant. In other words, share only specific details about the bully’s behavior. Don’t make assumptions or exaggerate details. And don’t criticize the bully as a person or call him names in the meeting. It’s the inappropriate behavior that needs to be addressed. Keep the focus there.

3. Seek Outside Assistance

Find help for your situation. Report the bullying to the bully’s manager or supervisor. Bullying is a big issue that cannot be handled alone. If the bully is the owner or the manager, consider filing a complaint. Depending on how you are being bullied, you may find protection with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, the Department of Labor, the American’s with Disabilities Act, the local police or even a local attorney.

Surround yourself with empowering people. Find people who can understand what you are experiencing and who will provide support. It helps to talk about what you are experiencing, so don’t keep it inside.

Seek professional help or counseling. Being targeted by a bully can have serious consequences. It can affect your mood, your self-esteem and even your physical health. Be sure to find some outside assistance, especially if you notice you are feeling depressed.

Remember that you are not alone. Workplace bullying is widespread issue. Don’t let what you are experiencing define you. Instead, find a support group in your area or start one of your own.

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