Tips for tackling bullies

In response to your request for ideas on tackling bullies (OH August) here
are some approaches I have come up with in the course of my career, which
included two jobs where I was bullied myself.

– Be alert. Look out for signs that may warn you that a bully is beginning
to pick on you. These can be subtle: a boss who demands impossibly high
standards; a colleague who asks everyone else in the office to lunch but
"accidentally" forgets to include you.

– The sooner you tackle a problem the less likely it is to escalate.
Confront them. Ask them why they are behaving in this way. Leave them in no
doubt that their behaviour is affecting you, and what you intend to do if it
carries on.

– Know your enemy. What has your bully been like in the past? Do they act
like this with anyone else? Does anyone else bully them?

Very often, bullies operate in "serial killer" mode, when they
have dispatched one victim they move on to the next. Some bosses work on a
"new best friend" basis – they choose one person who can do no wrong
while everyone else is left out in the cold.

– Keep the evidence. Bullies are often arrogant and careless. If you receive
bullying e-mails, memos or notes, for goodness sake hold on to them. To present
a formal complaint this sort of corroborative evidence is invaluable.

Even items which do not seem terribly damning taken individually can add up
to a case when taken in context with other evidence.

Get everything in writing: keep a diary; make notes; record exactly what was
said, who was present, how you felt about it. A contemporaneous record is far
more convincing than one recalled some weeks or months later.

Talk to witnesses. Get some validation for your feelings. Ask colleagues to
confirm whether they saw or heard an incident and whether in their opinion it
constituted harassment or bullying. Ask if they would be willing to repeat this
to senior management

– Contact your union. You pay your dues, use the service. It can be a
valuable source of advice and support.

– Go to the top. If your bully is your boss go over his or her head. If his
or her immediate boss isn’t supportive, go one level higher. Present your
evidence in an orderly fashion and if there are witnesses who can support your
claims insist that they be interviewed too. Make clear your intention to get
legal advice if the matter isn’t sorted out satisfactorily. Lastly, don’t let
it shake your self-belief.

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