Workplace bullies can be more than just an annoyance -- they can also lead to physical health and psychological problems, absenteeism, decreased productivity and increased tension at home. If you or someone you know is being bullied at work, the first step is to tell the bully, calmly and professionally, that you want the behavior to stop. If the bullying continues, take it one step further by submitting a written report to your supervisors or the Human Resources department at your place of business.
Write down all the incidents that happen or have happened, detailing the date, time, the nature of the incident and the people involved, including any witnesses. Keep the information in a journal or notebook in a safe location at home.
Print out any other documentation you may have about the bullying, such as e-mails or social media interactions.
Address your letter to the Human Resources officer or the supervisor in charge of the bully, using a cordial greeting. In the body of the letter, state the facts of the situation, using professional language and avoiding being emotional or drawing conclusions such as, "He's a jerk!" as you detail what happened during the bullying. Include a short synopsis of the most egregious acts of bullying, and then refer to your incident sheet and other documentation to address more dates, times and nature of all of the incidents. Do not threaten the addressee with any actions -- simply state the facts and ask for a meeting to discuss the issue further.
Attach your documentation, including your incident sheet and any printouts you have as proof of the bullying, to the letter.
Hand the letter to the addressee in person, or put it in her inbox where you know she will see it right away.
Talk with co-workers who may also be the victims of the bullying, and ask them to write a letter to the boss or Human Resources, as well. While your claim should stand on its own, hearing complaints from more than one person can add weight to the issue and may make the situation seem more urgent. That said, though, avoid spreading gossip about what you're reporting to co-workers; you want to remain professional throughout this process, so your behavior will be above reproach.
- While bullying might not be illegal per se, repeatedly harassing someone based on her race, gender, disabilities, sexual orientation or any other type of protected status can be. If the bullying continues and you don't get results by writing a letter to your bosses, talk with a lawyer to determine whether you have grounds for filing a lawsuit with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
- Avoid getting emotional when you are being bullied, advises psychologist Dr. Michelle Callahan, as that may be the result the bully is looking for.
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.