April 21st, 2012

For bullied workers, relief comes from reclaiming control

The most recent WBI survey has clearly shown that traditional (employer-compliant) tactics for individuals to solve their bullying problems don’t work — averaging a 97% failure rate. All tactics (confronting, seeking help from HR or the bully’s boss or the owner) lead to retaliation because employers can’t stand the fact that you have made them aware that bullying happens in their place. Bullied targets are messengers of bad news. Never mind that every workplace can be prone to bullying. Shooting the messenger becomes the most important task rather than fixing the work environment that fostered bullying.

The problem with those tactics recommended by “workplace experts” is that all demand acquiescence to another person’s control of your worklife — bully, HR, senior management or owners. The single common thread uniting all bullies, regardless of rank or tactic used, is the personal need to control the targeted individual.

For the target, when they are bullied is often the first time they ever operated in situations where someone else called the shots. The most wounded targets are those accustomed to autonomy, controlling what work they do and how they do it. Theft of control over your worklife is what causes so many problems for targets.

Appeasing strategies to get the bullying to stop leaves unaddressed the core issue — someone has control over your life and they have no right to it. Therefore, the hapless strategies that the employer wants you to use all require the surrender of control. That’s why they don’t work for the target.

The Alternative

In 78% of cases, you lose your job. So, control the one thing you can. Control the nature of your exit. We know it’s a dismal job search time, but once the bully’s claws are sunk in, it takes a miracle to extricate yourself by yourself. [As stated completely in our books and on the Work Doctor website, it is the employer’s responsibility to stop and prevent bullying. Victims should not have to fix problems they neither invited nor deserved.]

Bullied targets often leave in silence, without higher-ups given notice, and the lies created by the bullies believed by coworkers left behind. The most powerless exit is when HR kicks you out, tells you to gather your personal things in a box, and has security march you out. This disgraceful “exit parade” reinforces your powerlessness. These departures are out of the target’s control.

An exit controlled by bullied targets would include:

– disability leave planned by you and your physician (do not accept HR’s demand that you file a Workers Comp claim — that’s a system where employers are judge and jury)

– use your off time to calculate the fiscal impact (dollars and cents) associated with the bullying
– estimate turnover attributable to the bully (cost is 2x salary of those driven out)
– estimate cost of absenteeism to escape the bully’s wrath on a daily basis
– research how many lawsuits have been threatened or filed and how much was paid in settlements and severance packages to workers tormented before you (there will be gag orders prohibiting disclosure, but guesstimate)

– practice telling your story briefly and WITHOUT EMOTION (this is very hard, given that emotional abuse results in emotional injuries and stress-related physical complications)

– locate someone in the company or agency or ministry with sufficient rank (not HR) who should care about financial losses and who did not hire the bullies and is not related to any of them. Go up the org chart.

– rehearse a 15 min. unemotional report describing the various ways the bully negatively impacts the workplace and how the reality might have been shielded from that executive

– invent a solution. You know the work better than the bully. What could be done differently to reverse the losses if the bully was gone.

[If you work for a small, family-owned firm, you will have to get a new job ASAP. No rational arguments will ever stop the bullying. There is no one to appeal to.]

– report like a dispassionate consultant. Give the solution. Dare the executive to run the business like a business and to not let a personal relationship with one person to undermine the organization’s mission. Ask for personal safety. Do not threaten a lawsuit unless you have been told to do so by an attorney. Be prepared to be fired on the spot or shortly thereafter. Refuse mediation or procedures making you work with the idiot bully.

– if you were not offered relief, leave the meeting, prepared to quit.

At first this may sound like a losing proposition. However, the difference between this strategy and all the others involving begging and groveling is that the process was controlled by you. It is the first step toward reclaiming your personal dignity and mental health. Is it risky? Yes, but every strategy is risky. What more can you afford to lose?

If the executive refuses to make you safe, and you were prepared for this, quit. It’s the signal for you to move out and on with your life. By doing as we suggest, you leave with your head held high and dignity intact.

Leaving under conditions in which your health has been shattered can lead to a 1 yr. healing period before being able to float resumes and to give good job interviews. When you leave knowing that you were too skilled and valuable for a place that would allow a bully to keep you from performing at your optimal level, you leave healthy and ready for the next job.

This is the WBI method that bullied targets should try.

Forget confronting. If you could have, you would have.
Forget comeback lines. You will think of them hours too late anyway.
Forget expecting help from HR. See the WBI Forum and comments to articles at this site. HR will let you down.
Forget trying to convince the bully’s boss that she or he was wrong to hire and encourage the a-hole.


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This entry was posted on Saturday, April 21st, 2012 at 11:02 am and is filed under Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Tutorials About Bullying. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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