From Bullied to BullyProof!
The WBI 3-Step Target Action Plan
What Bullied Targets Can Do
Three things that are simple to list, but very difficult to accomplish. It's an uphill, David 'n Goliath, struggle.
Step One - Name it! Legitimize Yourself!
- Choose a name — bullying, psychological harassment, psychological violence, emotional abuse — to offset the effect of being told that because your problem is not illegal, you cannot possibly have a problem. This makes people feel illegitimate. The cycle of self-blame and anxiety begins.
- The source of the problem is external. The bully decides how to target and how, when, and where to harm people. You did not invite, nor want, the systematic campaign of psychological assaults and interference with your work. Think about it. No sane person wakes up each day hoping to be humiliated or berated at work.
- There is tremendous healing power in naming. Hard to believe at first, but very true.
Step Two - Take Time Off to Heal & Launch a Counterattack
Accomplish five (5) important tasks while on sick leave or short-term disability (granted by your physician).
- Check your mental health with a professional (not the employer's EAP). Get emotionally stable enough to make a clear-headed decision to stay and fight, or to leave for your health's sake. Your humanity makes you vulnerable; it is not a weakness, but a sign of superiority. Work Trauma, by definition, is an overwhelming, extraordinary experience.
- Check your physical health. Stress-related diseases rarely carry obvious warning signals (e.g., hypertension - the silent killer). Read the current research on work stress and heart disease.
- Research state and federal legal options (in a quarter of bullying cases, discrimination plays a role). Talk to an attorney. Maybe a demand letter can be written. Look for internal policies (harassment, violence, respect) for violations to report (fully expecting retaliation).
- Make the bottom-line business case for stopping the bully. See our detailed Estimating Costs of Bullying Worksheet.
- Start job search for next position.
Step Three - Expose the Bully
The real risk was sustained when you were first targeted (Targets lose their job - involuntarily or by choice for their health's sake - in 77.7% of cases). It is no riskier to attempt to dislodge the bully. Retaliation is a certainty. Have your escape route planned in advance. Remember, good employers purge bullies, most promote them.
- Make the business case that the bully is "too expensive to keep." Present the data gathered (in Step 2) to let the highest level person you can reach (not HR) know about the bully's impact on the organization. Obviously in family-owned, or small businesses, this is impossible (so leave once targeted).
- Stick to the bottom line. If you drift into tales about the emotional impact of the bully's harassment, you will be discounted and discredited.
- Give the employer one chance. If they side with the bully because of personal friendship ("he's a great conversationalist and a lunch buddy") or rationalize the mistreatment ("you have to understand that that is just how she is"), you will have to leave the job for your health's sake. However, some employers are looking for reasons to purge their very difficult bully. You are the internal consultant with the necessary information. Help good employers purge.
- The nature of your departure — either bringing sunshine to the dark side or leaving shrouded in silent shame — determines how long it takes you to rebound and get that next job, to function fully and to restore compromised health. Tell everyone about the petty tyrant for your health's sake. You have nothing to be ashamed about. You were only doing the job you once loved.
Answering critics of our approach .....
Pragmatists argue that our 3-Step Method will only get you fired. They are right in most cases. So, it is important for you to know why we suggest what we do. Our method accomplishes four goals:
Contrast our approach with traditional advice from HR types, coaches, & "career experts".....
Things NOT to do after discovering you are the target of workplace bullying:For more information we recommend reading The Bully At Work by Dr. Gary Namie and Dr. Ruth Namie (Sourcebooks)