How to Handle the Office Bully and Financial, Verbal, Emotional, and Physical Abuse
Have You Been Bullied? - Do Not Be Misled by Misinformation
How many workers in America are bullied each year?
Many workers and many people in America generally feel powerless. They never report bullying or bullies. While the Internet includes unsubstantiated claims that 80% of workplace bullying cases are litigated in the USA; as of mid-2011, this is not the case.
A full 80% of those who are bullied in the workplace walk away and find another job.
Rather, 80% of the bullied walk away and find another job. This is one reason for a high high employe turnover rate that is not discussed openly.
At the same time, many sources expect 80% of US employers to have a written policy against bullying sometime in the decade of the 2010s. As of 2013, a little progress has been made.
- Workplace Bullying: A Review Of Litigated Cases
- Bullying, Harassment and Retaliation - a PPT presentation from strima.org
Although many workers report that they have been bullied at work, other individuals may not know what bullying includes or how to recognize it when it occurs. Overall, bullying creates a hostile work environment and this uncomfortable work atmosphere is against EEO requirements and can be reported in an official complaint. Equal numbers of men and woman become bullies in the workplace, so it is not just men and not just women that might abuse an employee.
One hallmark of bullying in the workplace is that a talented, competent employee is the one that is usually bullied, rather than someone that does a mediocre or bad job. A talented, skillful individual is a threat to the bully.
Red Flags to Recognize Occur Here
Good workers are being constantly criticized, having their job responsibilities taken away, or being assigned meaningless, made-up tasks or "busy work" to perform on a daily basis.
Some of these employees are given nothing to do at all and then bosses write them up for not doing anything. This is bullying and abuse. Other signs of abuse in the workplace:
- A supervisor constantly yells at workers.
- A supervisor or coworker picks on the same people in front of others or in private where there are no witnesses.
- A boss constantly blocks someone's promotions.
- A supervisor sabotages an employees work or claims it as his own.
- A boss, supervisor, or coworkers deliberately ignore certain individuals at work and put them "out of the loop."
- A supervisor overloads employees, sets unreasonable deadlines, and requires many hours work beyond full-time, without additional pay. NOTE: if the average wage because of this added requirement dips below Federal Minimum Wage, legal action is allowable.
- A supervisor attacks a worker personally and name-calls.
- A boss, supervisor or coworkers make jokes about an employee.
- A boss or supervisors consistently give an employee equipment that does not work, such as the oldest computer in the building and it is broken.
- A boss places an employee in dangerous positions, such as at a front desk area into which gunfire has recently perpetrated, without adding security measures. Another example is giving only certain employees workspace that does not have adequate heating, cooling, and ventilation.
Financial Bullying in the Workplace
This is one type of bullying not often discussed. A few cases came to light in my state, where a few employers in small businesses held one or another employee's paycheck an extra week or left town on payday for two weeks without paying an employee. Some restaurants were fining employees for broken dishes and requiring them to purchase expensive uniforms from a cronie. All this was illegal and created financial hardship.
One boss paid his employees when he felt like it in a small office and the two women employed went 3-4 weeks without pay and finally quit.They reported to the Unemployment Office, whose representative researched the employer and found that they had never paid any Unemplyment Premiums, Workers Compensation Premiums, not most of their State and Local taxes, and definitely did not turn in payroll taxes taken from the two women's paychecks. Several legal actions were taken.
Another employer cut wages without telling his employees. Paychecks were simply far less one week.
Another boss, in a larger company, eliminated health insurance and cut wages for all workers that were not available 24/7/365 (his definition of full-time availability), although his business was open only 10 hours per day.
Another company owner began reducing wages 5% every year once the workers turned 50 - not only did these employes not receive the 3% raise others received, but lost and additional 5% (8% total) and suffered from inflation as well.
There were multiple dozens of these cases, and most came to light only after employees quit, found other work, and filed grievances with EEO. Many of these companies closed down, coincidentally avoiding litigation. In each case, the bullied targets were responsible, talented, intelligent people that represented a professional threat to the boss.
I'll add my own early experience -- For one year, I worked as General Manager of a chain store at a specific wage, putting in required unpaid extra hours weekly to make a solid success and I enjoyed the work. We earned regional profit awards that year. After that year, I learned that my wages were actually significantly below the bottom of the pay scale for that position, despite my producing higher profits than many other stores (it's easy to learn this through the Internet these days; we did not have it then).
I made a formal and polite grievance. Within 60 days, my store and one other local store in the chain abruptly closed and staff were laid off. My final paycheck included only two of the final weeks at the correct pay rate, although at the very bottom of the pay range. Soon thereafter, the entire chain was sold to individual owners.
One lesson from this is that employees are entitled to know the actual range of pay going into a job and can research their company and pay ranges easily today.
Bullying Will Make You Sick
Bullying causes increased feelings of stress and tension in the body and can lead to clinical indications of :
- Anxiety, depression, low self-confidence,
- Weight gain (Even if you don't eat more!),
- Pain: headaches, backaches, muscle aches
- Insomnia,over sleeping,nightmares,
- Skin rashes,
- Diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome,
- High blood pressure,
- Organ involvement of kidneys and heart,
- Suicidal ideation (thoughts of suicide)
How to Handle Bullying in the Workplace
A total of at least 44% of all Americans have reported that they have experienced abuse in the workplace as of 2012.
This figure was reported from a study completed by the Employment Law Alliance. It is a shocking fact that nearly half of all American workers report that they have been abused at work. This does not include the number of American workers that are afraid to report it and do not tell anyone about it.
It is impossible to know just how many people in the US are abused on the job each year, because not everyone reports it; but whatever the number is, it is too high.
In order to lower these numbers, people need to learn what exactly abuse entails and that there are various ways to prevent it and to stop it. I believe is begins with education in the home, followed by education and practice at school, and should include not only any-sexual-harassment training in the workplace, but anti-bully and anti-abuse training on the job for everyone as well.
We as a country and as individuals must take the existence of abuse extremely seriously. It does occur and it does happen in the workplace.
Many of people that suffer abuse at work simply choose to quit and escape the menace and the stress, but not everyone feels that they are able to do that. For those who can't escape an abusive boos or coworkers, start with these principles:
1. Know and believe this -
Abusive behavior from your boss, a coworker, or anyone else is not your fault. Ever! It's not even about you - It's about control, just like rape. The target could be anyone. There was one before you and there will be one after you unless something is done to break the cycle and stop the abusive behavior.
No one deserves abuse at any time for any reason. Abuse is an inappropriate reaction. If you have done something wrong at work, you can expect to be corrected and perhaps even disciplined and after a prescribed number of write-ups or other disciplinary actions, even fired. However, you do not deserve to be abused. This abuse includes yelling, hitting, shunning, belittling, sarcasm, name calling, and other inappropriate actions.
If you are the victim of a workplace tyrant, it's easy to internalize blame and feel helpless. But falling into this negativity trap can take its toll on your health and self-esteem.
Try using a Mental Bank account to build yourself up. Mentally vaccinate yourself against the office bully with affirmations and positive self talk. Tell yourself that you are a good person and will continue to do a good job while you look for away out. You job is not who your are, so take up some hobbies if you don't have any. Make sure that work is just part of your day, not your whole day.
Where, after all do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home, so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination.— Eleanor Roosevelt
2. Insanity is doing the same thing every time and expecting a different result. Stop it!
You cannot change a bully, ever. Only she/he can change himself, short of good therapy or a miracle from God. Keeping an upbeat attitude will get old under the constant haranguing of a bully. Just hoping the office bully will change is hopeless. Accept the fact of the abuse and make plans to address it or quit and address it.
3. Find some good friends that build you up.
Talk about the abuse with sympathetic people at work. Mutual support and communication can help reduce stress and stop the isolation that your abuser wants to you suffer. Don't just complain - get support and go to Human Resources and/or your Employee Assistance Program. Get counseling and file an EEO complaint if the abusive situation is not remedied.
4. Learn Verbal Self Defense and Assertiveness Training Skills.
Your EAP or local YMCA, YWCA, Recreation Centers, or Mental Health network can help you locate free and low-cost classes for these remarkable and useful skills.
5. Quit and file EEO charges.
For me, it is better to live in a cardboard box on the street that to accept abuse!
If everyone I know were to become abusive, then I like myself well enough to be alone and I can find new employment.You have to believe in yourself, even when no one else does.
A lot of help exists for those who have experienced such abuse that they must quit. Call your local social services or court related agencies for a list of organizations that will help. You may be able to receive unemployment benefits.
Ways Not to Handle A Bully
Instead of taking the action that is many times proven to stop a bully, some onlookers want to "play pranks" on a bully, "punch him in the nose", "give him an ugly Christmas gift", write limericks about him on the batroom walls, etc. To what end? None of these will stop the bully and may inflame the bullying behavior futher.
The onlookers are seeking not to stop the bully, but to one-up the bully and bring themselves what they see as higher status socially in doing so. They place themselves into the bullying category in seeking revenge, instead of a solution.
Revenge Does Not Stop a Bully
Some people want to abuse the bully, but that makes the cycle worse - in fact, the bully can become so enraged that he kills someone.
The people that want revenge want revenge, not justice, no change, and not an end to bullying. They want to elevate themselves by doing the same thing the bully is doing.
Questions & Answers
© 2007 Patty Inglish MS