Bullied at Work? 4 Tips to Deal With It

Bullying is not just for kids. It's alive and well in the American workplace--from cubicles to the boardroom.

Almost 30 percent of us are targeted by bullies at some time during our working years, according to Dr. Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik, a professor at North Dakota State University in Fargo and the author of "Adult Bullying: A Nasty Piece of Work."

She likens workplace bullying, which she also describes as "mobbing," to psychological terror and emotional abuse. When the bullies' victims are added with those who witness it, fully half of U.S. workers are affected. And that makes on-the-job bullying an epidemic, declares Lutgen-Sandvik.

Who are the workplace bullies? They are typically what psychologists call high-aggressives. "It's a thin fa├žade of 'I'm so great; I'm the center of the whole world,' but it's easily punctured and because it's so easily punctured, they are filled with fear," explains Lugen-Sandvik. "And the fear is that someone is going to see them as incompetent." Bullies also have little or no sense of empathy.

Who are the bullies' victims? They are the people the bullies perceive as a real threat, who must be put down.

Why do so many organizations ignore bullies? While bullying does result in reduced productivity and loss of talent, many companies are reluctant to deal with it. "A company is faced with a double-edge sword because they have to admit there is a problem and admitting it may put them in a position of some kind of legal liability," explains Lutgen-Sandvik. Unfortunately, some managers think the easy fix is to fire the bully's target, rather than deal with the bully.

If you're the target of an office bully, here are four tips to deal with it:
1. Name it.
It's workplace bullying. "Having a name for it sounds small. It's huge. You can't believe the relief that people have when they realize that bullying is what's happening," says Lutgen-Sandvik.

2. Seek social support.
If you need a counselor, find one. Take advantage of employee assistance programs if available. Talk to friends and co-workers who are supportive.

3. Step back.
Take some time off work if that is possible to gain some perspective. List the pros and cons of the job and determine whether searching for another position is feasible.

4. Fight back.
If the bullying targets only a certain group and involves issues such as gender, racial or other types of discrimination, evaluate options for reporting and legal avenues available. Scrupulously document what is happening.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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