So on Tuesday I covered what bullying is/isn’t and some symptoms that can present themselves when you are a victim of bullying in the workplace. NOW I’m going to tell you how to handle it and a few lessons I learned in the process.
1.) Document Everything! Everything!– If things are crossing the line, even if you think you may just be oversensitive write it all down anyway. I’m talking dates, times, and SPECIFIC things that were said that made you feel uncomfortable. This will be the most invaluable tool you have later on down the road if things escalate and you want to go to a superior. They’re going to want to know “specifics” and if you have a detailed history of verbal abuse that has been going on for awhile, people are going to start taking you very seriously. I recommend emailing incidents to yourself via email so there is a time and date stamp on it as opposed to just writing it in a journal.
2.) The power of suggestion- A lot bullying continues because people are too scared to “talk back” to a superior, and I know this was the case with me. An older, more experienced Admin was always really great at deflecting my tyrant boss by saying things like “Ok, I understand you, why don’t you give me a minute to work on this“. She was subtly suggesting to him that things were getting tense and he needed to back off. I also had a friend who was being harangued by a boss at work and she said “I don’t think you realize the tone with which you are speaking to me, can we bring it down?”. It made all the difference. If THEY know you aren’t afraid to speak up, they make think twice before bullying you.
3.) Go to the chief– Sometimes things get out of hand and you realize your work environment is now toxic and something needs to be done. Don’t suffer in silence, but don’t sh!t talk with your friends at the office or someone who is higher up than you but has no real authority over you or your boss. I know it’s easier to tell things to people you feel more comfortable with, but this just weakens your case. Go directly to your boss’ boss or the CEO if you have to-this lets them know that you mean business. Don’t wait for your mid-year review (which the bully boss will most likely be sitting in on anyway)…schedule a meeting with them and bring your journal. Some people are loathe to do this because in grade school bullies who got tattled on usually just tortured you more, but this is work. IF a company head understands your concerns and has a serious talk with your boss, that usually should do the trick. We all have the right to a harassment-free work environment, and everyone has to make a living.
4.) Don’t be afraid to walk away- In my case, the company heads were kind people who were really concerned with the happiness of their employees and they had a talk with my boss. It didn’t work though, and things continued to escalate. I had two choices; continue to complain and hope that one day it would get better or take a stand and leave. I know some people may not have the luxury of quitting their jobs, especially in this tough economy but if things are REALLY bad at work (and only you can judge that) then you need to be unafraid of walking away. Start socking away money for your escape-it’ll help you get through mentally in the meantime. And you never know, it may not have affected your situation, but it may help make things better for those who come after you.
Things I learned:
It was bad at the time, and I don’t think I realized how upset I was at everything that happened until I eventually moved home and took the time to process it all. Aside from affecting my work performance, the bullying at work brought up a lot of ugly childhood/middle school memories that I hadn’t dealt with properly before. In the time I’ve spent reflecting (and there has been a lot of time for that this summer) I have taken the following lessons away from my experiences with bad bosses:
1.) YOU have to stand up for yourself– because no one else is going to do it for you. You may think (as I did) that when confronted with a bully in adulthood you’d know how to handle it because you lived through it in your younger years, right? Wrong. It is a whole ‘nother layer when you add the superior/inferior cash-money element to a relationship. If you’ve been taught to be a good kid and respect authority figures it gets that much harder to stand up for yourself-but you have to. It’s so important.
2.) YOU also have to communicate– I often wonder what would have happened if I had spoken up. Where would I be now? It is one of the biggest regrets of mine that I wasn’t more forceful in letting people know it was a problem from the beginning. I may have been able to save myself so much stress and grief, but I am better now about communicating my needs, expectations, and concerns in the workplace. Perhaps I come across as too direct, but thats better than letting people think they can get one over one you.
3.) YOU are what is important- Unless your boss gets visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve, he’s probably not likely to change his ways unless he gets reprimanded from those higher up. Oh your boss is THE higher up? Sorry about that. Just keep in mind your limits. I lost seven pounds and quit eating for a few weeks because I was so anxious and scared at work. I should have left long before. Your retirement account can wait, and I don’t regret a penny I spent in the transition between jobs. My guess is that you won’t either.
3.) Grace will go a long way-It’s easy to get pulled down into the mud, especially when someone seems hell-bent on dragging you there. Always remember that taking the high road will get you much further than playing dirty.