So you are a responsible adult, going to work in an office with people you do not know. I mean, you know them as your workmates, but it goes none further. You are just trying to do your job as best you can, and go home but you now have an office bully in your place of employment. You've tried being nice. You've tried befriending the person. You may have told the person to stop the bullying and you are now ready to explode. Stop! If you were thinking about retaliating allow me to show you the pitfalls of exacting your personal revenge. Here are three urges we all may want to put in effect and why they rarely work:
Yes, the office bully has been zinging you in front of your co-workers for months, but like me, you may not be as skilled or polished as the bully at 'playing the dozens.' You hurl your built up comeback and you end up in trouble. Why? You are the one that came out of character and the attention is now on you in a negative light. Here is why you'll lose this battle in a professional setting most of the time:
- Two wrongs don't make a right
- Bullies are pros at what they do, and you are not
- Your workmates are immune, entertained or numb with fear to the bullies action, not yours
- Many bullies may have no shame, insults will make it worse
- Bullies are not always cowards, some can back up the talk
- If Murphy's Laws rules the day, you'll be the one unemployed
Rallying the Troops
So you are the person everyone goes to complain about the bully. People seem to look to you as a savior. You end up taking the cause of the weak and weary. You help develop a game plan for everyone to rise up at the right moment and the following happens...
- When it is time to rise, you rose by yourself
- Co-workers will turn on you at the last minute leaving you out to dry with the bully and the boss
- Co-workers will change their story to stay in the status quo if they sense the revolt is not going well
- You may end up the problem, not the solution
Like returning insults, but at a much higher level of danger, the bully has confronted you for the last time, in your mind. This time he or she gets in your face and prods you into a fight. You've seen this person cause others to cower but you have had enough. You take the bully up on the challenge and "get it cracking!" I share this experience in my book entitled, Navigating Through the Valleys of Success - A Perspective in the Thick of it. Your ego may be satisfied in the short term but there points to think about:
- Losing your job over one idiot
- The bully can turn the story around. Bullies are pros, you are not
- Your co-workers may not stand with you, even though you provided temporary relief for them. Remember fear, and status quo is a hell of a toxin
- Win or lose, a bully will always resurface given the opportunity. This is not grade-school where this act may cause an attitude adjustment. The adult learning curve is more resiliently defiant than a child
- The bully may just respect you, but no one else. When you are not there everyone suffers
- The bully already knows your weakness, he or she spent time researching your faults. The reality is that bullies harass because they know they can
- It may not end as you envisioned it. What good are you to your family injured or unemployed?
So what do you do? Take it to HR!
Guys, the answer is easier than you think, and that is going to your Human Resources Department (HR), especially if your boss refuses to act. The difficult part is the vetting process of your actions, meaning anytime you bring a problem to HR or your boss there is an uncomfortable stage initially: the investigation. Be prepared to accept that HR has to check out your story. This can be frustrating for a moment but it is a necessary evil. While you are waiting for the process to unfold here are the benefits when you take this action.
- Everyone is on notice
- The bully's livelihood is tangibly threatened, bullies have to eat too
- Investigations are, for the most part, confidential and co-workers can be compelled to share their own experience along with what they observed on your behalf with the office bully
- It documents the activity in case it has to go to civil suit, and no employer with common sense wants the headache of a lawsuit
- It is a great time for your boss and HR to go over protections against hostile work environments policies
Many times we are so afraid to go to HR because of fear, and sometimes our ego. We don't want to admit that we are scared, and we don't want to be looked at as weak for reaching out to higher sources. Nobody wants to be labeled a snitch but we don't live under "hood rules" in office settings. I want you all to forget about what people think, especially at work. These people are not your family. They don't carry the burden and stress home like you do with yours. I'm writing this because I've done it the wrong way and have also been able to turn it around and do it the right way. Now as a supervisor at work and a CEO of a business, I've been on the forefront of preventative measures in regards to hostile work environments. HR is one of my strongest resources when office conflicts do not subside with my actions alone. Don't handle this by yourself, and don't let your ego or pride rule the day. Get it off your chest and on to your bosses back asap. I've seen it work. Yes, there are some cases where there is retaliation, but many victims of this are now millionaires.