Bully victim must seek help

November 23, 2009

Q: I am the victim of office bullying and my supervisor turns a blind eye to the situation. What can I do?

A: We expect bullying will end once we leave the school yard; however, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute (www.workplacebullying.org), almost half of working Americans have been affected by bullying on the job.

Workplace bullies use words or actions to assert power over their targets through aggression. They degrade, belittle, sabotage, threaten or humiliate to psychologically hurt or isolate.

If you feel you are the victim of bullying, first acknowledge that it’s happening and the emotional stress on you. Don’t allow this cruelty to undermine your self-confidence or feel ashamed of yourself. Stop being a target by seeking the advice of a mentor, coach or health professional who understands bullying.

Recognize that the perpetrator needs to control someone who enables or tolerates their behaviour. It continues as long as it is rewarded with the desired reaction or response. What repercussions are you afraid of that are preventing you from standing your ground?

While you can’t change another person, you can influence the situation by asserting yourself. Only confront the bully if your physical safety isn’t threatened. Only address the facts by remaining calm and professional. Don’t show any weakness or self-doubt.

Often subtle, bullying can go undetected — except by the intended target. Document the offensive behaviour and tell your supervisor so it is exposed. If the abuse continues, you can contact the provincial human-rights office or a lawyer to determine your right to recourse.

Bullying doesn’t flourish where it’s not tolerated. If you are not getting the support you need from your leaders, you may decide to leave the workplace with your dignity for an organization committed to a culture of respect.

Originally printed in The Province, November 22, 2009.

How to handle a boss who breaks promises

February 8, 2009

Q: My boss promises incentives for achieving targets, but when we reach them, he gives every reason why we won’t get them. With the economy the way it is, I can’t afford to make waves and get fired, but I have lost trust and respect for him. How can I get beyond this?

A: Your boss is in the position of authority, but you have a choice — and experiencing that choice offers you freedom and peace even if you don’t get your desired results.

You can choose to resolve this by developing new alternatives where you both still reach your goals and maintain your relationship. Express your point of view in a calm, neutral way without attacking him. Document and verify all future agreements up front.

If your boss still disagrees, you have been true to yourself and you’ll know where you stand. You can’t always change a person’s mind or the situation, no matter how hard you try. Instead of fighting a losing battle, you can decide to accommodate. In other words, let it go.

You can opt to overpower him by taking it to an influential ally or higher power to force the issue. But what’s the long-range cost to you? If his behaviour reflects the organization’s culture, this could be a no-win situation. It might be wise to cut your losses and move on.

Alternatively you can compromise on what goals you are willing to give up in exchange for others. Staying put means contending with this boss. Is it worth the trade-off of not having to job hunt?

Stewing about bad treatment breeds resentment and drains your energy. Refocus on what brings you satisfaction at work. Set your own benchmarks and incentives for attaining them. If you can’t find a way to minimize conflict, minimize the contact.

Originally printed in The Province on February 8, 2009.

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