What can a target do if he or she is being bullied in the workplace? The advice you'll probably hear from your well-meaning family and friends is to push back. But sometimes that's just not viable. The fact is that bullies are weak people who choose their targets by who they feel won't fight back. Some people are just not confrontational.
Also, pushing back can cause the situation to get much worse. The Workplace Bullying Institute offers three suggestions for what to do if you're the target of an office bully:
1. Name it! Legitimize yourself.
Give the abuse a name: bullying, psychological harassment, psychological violence, emotional abuse. This helps you offset the effect of being told that, because your problem is not illegal (yet), you have no problems. It makes you feel legitimate.
2. Seek respite; take time off to bully-proof yourself.
Taking time off lets you get emotionally stable enough to make a clear-headed decision to stay and fight or to leave for your health's sake.
It lets you see how your physical health differs when you're away from work. If you notice a significant difference in your blood pressure when you're away from work, then you know it's a problem.
Use time away from the office to research state and federal legal options (in a quarter of bullying cases, discrimination plays a role). Talk to an attorney.
Gather data about the economic impact the bully has had on the employer. Discover turnover rates. Calculate the costs of replacement (recruitment, demoralization from understaffing, interviewing, lost time while newbie learns job), absenteeism, and lost productivity from interference by bully.
3. Expose the bully.
Make the business case that the bully is "too expensive to keep." 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. The trick is to get the employer to stop the bullying for its own self-interests.
Catch up on previous posts about workplace bullying
Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.