How to Make a Workplace Bully Accountable

Forty-five percent of Americans have experienced workplace abuse, according to the Employment Law Alliance.

Forty-five percent of Americans have experienced workplace abuse, according to the Employment Law Alliance.

While not everyone cares to be best friends with their co-workers, it's rough when the opposite is true. Being bullied at work is annoying and hurtful, and worse, it can lead to things like anxiety and depression. If you are being bullied, don't wait to deal with it; hold that bully accountable now to prevent annoying little jibes from becoming big problems.

Document every instance of bullying you see or experience, to keep a record of the bully's pattern. There are times when the bullying could be also considered harassment; the former, while annoying, is not illegal -- but in a quarter of bullying cases, some type of discrimination is involved, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute. If you're being continually harassed because of your race, marital status, gender, sexual orientation or another protected status, you may be able to mount a case against the offender with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You can also use the documentation as evidence when you talk to your superiors about the problem. Save emails or text messages written by the bully, and write down incidents that happen in person. Note the date, time and details of the incident, and keep it in a safe place on your home computer -- not your work one -- or in a handwritten notebook. In the event you are let go from your job for taking action, you'll want to have the documentation somewhere you can access it.

Research any state or internal policies or bylaws about bullying, respect, or other language about employee conduct and employee relations. Look in your employee handbook or ask the human resources department to provide one for you. Make copies of any laws and keep them in your personal files, in case you need to give them to a lawyer or use them when you speak to the supervisors of the company.

Find an ally -- or more than one. If you're seeing instances of bullying at your workplace, chances are others are seeing it too. Talk to someone you trust about helping you document the instances of bullying; when it's time to talk to the bosses, two -- or more -- voices may be more effective than just one.

Speak with the bully directly and let her know that you don't want her to continue doing what she's doing. In some cases, the bully may not realize that what she's doing is hurtful until you tell her, and may work to fix her behavior once she knows she's on notice. In other cases, it may goad her into more bad behavior -- so just be prepared for anything. In a calm, respectful manner, tell the bully the exact behaviors she's engaging in that are upsetting you or your co-workers. Do not resort to name-calling or other emotional outbursts; simply describe the behavior, ask for it to stop, and then go home and document the entire conversation. If the bully is your boss, step carefully here; you may risk your position if you don't speak respectfully and professionally about the problem. If you don't feel it's possible to speak rationally to your boss about the problem, go over her head.

Talk with the highest-ranking person you can about the problem with the bully. If you have an ally in the office, ask him to come with you to the meeting. Bring your documentation and talk to the person respectfully and professionally, letting her know that the bullying is affecting your ability to complete your work. When you tie the problem to productivity, you may be more likely to get the supervisor's attention. In the best-case scenario, the boss will take the problem from there, working to make the bully accountable for her actions. In the worst case, the higher-ups in the office will take the bully's side -- or the bully is the highest ranking official in the workplace and won't admit fault. In either case, the Workplace Bullying Institute advises that you seriously consider leaving a hostile working environment.

Tip

  • If the bully is indeed your boss or the owner of the company, your only option may be to document the bullying, and then speak to a lawyer. While in many cases bullying is not illegal, your lawyer may be able to recommend further action based on your particular circumstances -- especially if it can be regarded as illegal harassmsnt. If that's the case, start brushing up on your resume right away.
 

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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