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Ten Self-Defense Tips for Bullied Employees
By Robert Mueller, JD
Author of “Bullying Bosses: A Survivor’s Guide.”
Approach your bullying problem like a work project. Be methodical in how you behave, perform, document, and strategize. In the face of their excruciating rudeness, try to stay unemotional. Even though he or she is trying to make you think the opposite, it is the bully who has a serious personal and professional problem, not you.
Jot down just the key details. Put them on the “incident report form” on this website or on note cards: time, date, place, people, key quotes and discrete behaviors of concern. Unlike journals, these can be moved around as the facts around you move. All bullies create patterns in what they do. That’s what you’re looking for. The bullying is not about what happened on a particular day. It’s a campaign conducted over time. It’s not personal. It’s war.
Sweat the small stuff. Document even the smallest incidents, which often become the most important, illustrating a pattern of bullying that might not otherwise be apparent. Teasing counts. Sarcasm counts. Ignoring or criticism counts. A very public glare or silent treatment counts.
Don’t let yourself get isolated. Every day, pick out someone you haven’t talked to for a while. Have a brief but focused, attentive conversation that focuses on them. Bullies work hard to alienate targets from their coworkers. Don’t let that happen to you.
5 Earn the support of others, by supporting them first. The bullies work hard to isolate you from your coworkers but they are limited to slanders. Just words. They are unable “to connect” with others. That’s what makes them a “bully.” But you sincerely offer individual coworkers substance. Whether work-related on not, discover something specific they need and you can help with. This is exactly how politicians win elections.
6. Be a workplace warrior as you look for other work. Find specific employment opportunities but not necessarily to take another job. Nothing fosters strength and good humor in a negative environment better than the freedom to leave it.
Display self-esteem and broadcast positive attitude. Pay attention to how your appearance—such as hair and clothes—is perceived by others. Have a comfy chair in your office for coworkers. Put fresh flowers on your desk. Decorate with tasteful art that will be pleasing to others. Make your personal space an oasis of calm and taste.
During a bullying situation, excuse yourself. Don’t beat a hasty retreat, and don’t leave the building. Tell your abuser that you’re late for an appointment with HR, for example. Or casually excuse yourself to the restroom. Never enter the restroom if you are being pursued by a bully.
9. During an attack, try distracting your abuser. Pick up something physical—as long at it’s not a threatening item—such as a critical file that needs the bully’s attention or a note with an important phone number that needs to be called.
Protect your personal information. Tell bullies as little as possible about your life, family, friends, hobbies, interests, religion, and so on. Information about you gives them power.
Copyright © 2007 Bullying Bosses: A Survivor’s Guide