Workplace Bullying Is A Serious Problem

Most people are familiar with the problem of schoolyard bullying and the toll it can take on young victims. In many cases, the emotional scars that bullying inflicts can cause a lifetime of problems.

Unfortunately, not every bully grows up to be a kind and well-adjusted adult. Some end up bringing their bad behavior into the workplace, creating a hostile work environment for their co-workers and subordinates.

At its most basic level, workplace bullying is defined as any repeated behavior that humiliates, intimidates or demeans an individual. This behavior counts as bullying even if the aggressor does not supervise the victim.

Workplace bullying is more common than one might realize. A study by The Workplace Bullying Institute shows that as many as 53.5 million American workers have been the victims of on-the-job bullying. Another study from the Employment Law Alliance revealed that 45 percent of survey respondents said they had been the victims of workplace bullying. Women are much more likely than men to be the target of workplace bullies.

Taking action against bullies

In many serious cases, the bullying gets so bad that the victims feel like they need to quit their jobs just to get relief. Unfortunately, it isn't always easy for victims to take legal action when this happens. While federal and state laws protect workers against harassment or discrimination based on protected statuses like sex, race, disability, religion or national origin, there aren't automatic protections against bullying that isn't based on a protected status.

This doesn't mean that there is nothing victims can do. If you are being bullied at work, consider taking the following steps:

  • Document everything: Keep a journal where you write down what happened to you, when it happened and who saw it. Keep the journal personal and don't leave it at the office or save it to your work computer.
  • Report the abuse: Tell your supervisor or human resources representative about what is happening and ask them to take action. If your workplace has an ethics hotline or grievance system, use it.
  • Get counseling: Sometimes, talking to a therapist can help you develop strategies for coping with the abuse and ignoring or deflecting your bully.
  • Talk to a lawyer: An experienced employment law attorney can review your case and help you understand your rights and options for moving forward. If you are still at your job, the lawyer can work with you to make a strategic plan for addressing the abuse.

Whatever you do, it is important to understand that bullying is not your fault. It is not fair that you are being mistreated. However, if you stand up for yourself - and ask for the help you deserve - you may be able to solve the problem.