Getting a workplace bully to leave you alone can be a terribly difficult task. In spite of your best efforts to ignore her or even directly asking her to knock it off, she just won’t let up. In these situations it’s time to reach out for some help. You’ve got to report the bully.
Who Can Help?
Before thinking about what you are going to say, you first need to identify your reporting options. Ideally, the person should be someone you trust and who has the knowledge and authority to provide you with the help you need. Assuming she isn’t the bully, your supervisor is often the best first choice. Competent supervisors have a clear interest in creating a better workforce. They want employees to be happy and productive. Bullying cuts into both.
If the boss is the problem, then you have to explore other options. An HR person is usually your best choice. They should take the complaint and then involve the people necessary for resolving the situation. You might also consider taking it to a higher level manager such as your boss’s manager. This choice is usually a little riskier, especially if the bully has a fantastic working relationship with her manager.
Other possibilities include calling an employee assistance program, talking to a union representative, or even an attorney if you anticipate serious trouble.
Overcome the Obstacles
Most people are afraid to report the bully. First of all it just feels wrong. This can usually be traced back to what we learned as children from friends, and often reinforced by adults in our lives. Snitching is bad.
If that idea is in your head, I suggest you think about reporting a bully as problem-solving. You are simply involving others because you believe more ideas, skills, or authority are required to deal with the situation.
There are other obstacles as well. They include the concerns that…
- Your concerns won’t be taken seriously.
- The person to whom you report the problem won’t deal with the issue or may not have the skills to solve the problem.
- You will be viewed as a whiner or pot-stirrer who can’t deal with your own problems.
- The bully will find out and ratchet up the abuse.
Many of these well-grounded fears can freeze you in your tracks and leave you exposed to repeated bullying. To keep them from steering you away from taking a positive step that could solve the problem, you may want to consider the following:
- Good organizations do take these kinds of concerns seriously.
- If the people who could help aren’t aware of the problem, they will not help.
- The bully may well attempt to retaliate. If so, she is simply digging a deeper hole for herself and increasing the chances of being removed from the organization.
Prepare For Success
To be successful with this approach, there are a variety of things you need to remember.
- Be specific and precise in describing the behaviors.
- Have facts detailed and documented. Keep a log.
- Be respectfully persistent to any initial push back.
- Don’t dump and run, but rather partner with the person. Make the conversation a joint problem solving session.
- Role play with a friend or family member. Ask them to play the role of hesitant or disbelieving boss.
- Plan to follow up.
- Know that managers usually won’t discuss the specifics of any actions they took with the bully.
- See if others who have been bullied by this person will be part of a collective complaint.
- If it becomes necessary to escalate to someone else, letting the original person in on that plan is always a good idea.
Reporting a bully can be as scary as a direct confrontation. Sometimes the bully leaves you with no choice. In these cases, seek out the help you need to deal with the bully.
Here are more articles in this series.
- Defining the problem
- Understanding the problem
- Response options
- Change your thinking
- Confront the bully
- Report the problem
- Leave the situation
- Defend your coworkers
I’d also welcome your call to discuss your situation. Grab a slot on my calendar with the link below.