A Week for Support, Inspiration, Peace & Health
Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week is a chance to break through the shame and silence surrounding bullying. It is a week to be daring and bold. Here are different ways to celebrate Freedom Week.
Make this the time to break your silence. Tell co-workers, friends, and family. Ask for help. Put your health first. Read the voluminous research on health harm related to unremitting exposure to stress from bullying. Schedule an appointment with a mental health professional who understands bullying (see our Selection Guide). Talk to an attorney for one hour to see if you have any legal recourse. Refuse to believe the lies told about you and the shameful way you have been abandoned. It is not about you; it's the perpetrator's need to control others. Commit to either finding a new job or planning a fight-back strategy (involving co-workers, unions, the more rationale executives) to reclaim your dignity. Everyone should be entitled to being allowed to work without interference and assaults to her or his integrity. If the bullying is old and you are mad as hell, call your state senator and state representative to ask her or him to sponsor the WBI Healthy Workplace Bill.
Spouses, Partners, & Friends
Give unconditional positive support to the targets. Believe them. Tolerate dinners disturbed by their obsessing about the never-ending problem at work. Understand the exhaustion and withdrawal. Encourage them to get psychological and medical help. Validate that they are tough, but because they are human they cannot endure prolonged exposure to extreme stress without it impairing their health -- no one can. Provide needed respite from the toxic, stressful world of work targets endure. Distract them with pleasurable activities. Remind them of who they were before bullying injured them. Remember, you will be the last ones standing when all others have abandoned them. Don't ask them to do more than they are capable of doing. Don't ask why they did not do more to fight back. Support them now; you can ask for repayment of the credit you advanced to them later. Bullying tests the love between partners and friends. Pass the test for the sake of your loved one.
Our many years of immersion in workplace bullying convince us that co-worker witnesses have the best opportunity to stop bullying, second only to employers. During Freedom Week, don't give in to the "F" factor. Stop the fear -- of being the only one who comes to your bullied colleague's assistance, of daring to provoke the bully with an indignant stand, of being the next target, of being called insubordinate if you talk or work with the target person, of losing your job. Go ahead and feel guilty for not helping someone who clearly needs your help and may have asked for it. Why do you worry about the bully's impression of you? Think more about your personal integrity. Your bullied friend may be too ashamed to ask for help. So, offer it without having to be asked. If all co-workers stood together and immediately confronted the bully AS A GROUP about interfering with work of the target, he or she would most likely back down, if only temporarily. Bullies are liars and cowards. It gives the target much-deserved safety. Unfortunately, the reputation of co-workers is well known. They cower in fear, doing nothing, or worse, siding with the bully. That's why some people call bullying "mobbing." It becomes many against one. Co-workers do the bullies' dirty work for them. By working together and showing the bully a united front, chances of being divided as a group are less likely. And if you stick together, you can't all be fired (thus overcoming the greatest fear of all). The very least you can do as a group is to comfort the target by sharing your experiences as a former (and probably future) target of the same bully. At least provide emotional support if tactical support sounds too scary. In the beginning of the bullying, targets believe they are alone and this never happened to anyone before (because co-workers are silent and do not share experiences). Reinforce the target's humanity. While being bullied, targets come to believe the bully's lies. The group can counter the lies. Be there for your friend. It's the social compact among human beings. Honor humanity; dare the bully to act humanely toward all of you. Read more about why groups do what they do in The Bully At Work. Make Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week the excuse to try something different. The results will please you. It will be something you can be proud of. And your targeted colleague will thank you.
Learn how bullying is an unsustainable cost. Look beyond personalities as causes to see how the workplace culture and environment make your organization prone to bullying. Commit to correcting and preventing it. Adopt the WBI/Work Doctor Blueprint to Prevent Workplace Bullying. Employers define all conditions of work. Leadership sets the rules and establishes the culture. Bullying could not exist without either the explicit or tacit approval from employers. You own the place and are responsible for the problems that exist within.
If you have ever been asked to intervene in an abusive situation by a bullied target and did not help, why? Have you ever supported a bullying boss because of HR's management support role? Have you ever coached a rookie supervisor to start documenting, surveilling, and tormenting the worker known by everyone (including you) to be the most technically qualified? Have you aided and abetted a bully? Have you prepared termination documents for workers who originally came to you seeking relief from a systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction? Seek atonement. For Freedom Week, make a personal pledge to never again stand idly by while people are harmed, or better still, find a moral and principled purpose to which your HR department can commit.
Mental Health Professionals
Don't say "let's change your behaviors that provoke the bully." Trust what abuse victims tell you. Believe that there are people as evil as have been described to you. Stop holding targeted clients responsible for the unsolicited psychological violence they endure. Understand how work environments, not personal flaws, explain health-harming mistreatment. Stop committing the fundamental attribution error. Be careful to not misdiagnose as borderline or adjustment disorder. Minimize psychological testing during acute phases of abuse so as to not skew results. Try EMDR. Suggest the client attend a trauma support group. Learn the consequences for the client of FMLA, Workers Comp, and Disability (short- and long-term). Learn more about workplace bullying at WBI University so you can specialize. Study the science behind bullying and stress-related diseases.
Help bullied members. Stop defending abusive members. Representation need not be a defense. Adopt the prevention of workplace bullying as an organizing tool. Schedule training for members to become internal experts in bullying so they can help member-coworkers. Make a bullying-free, safe workplace a goal for members. Adopt bullying as a strategic goal. Bargain tirelessly to include an anti-bullying provision in the CBA. Endorse the WBI Healthy Workplace Bill in your state and join the advocacy now. WBI and unions are natural partners in the fight for workers' rights and human rights. Dignity at work is deserved by all.
Learn about the WBI Workplace Bullying in Schools project, begun in Iowa, to address bullying among adult employees -- teachers and staff. Complement your student bullying with the program that reduces your risk exposure while creating a healthy work environment to optimize student success.
Sponsor the WBI Healthy Workplace Bill in your state. 200 state lawmakers already have already done so in 17 states. Listen to your constituents' tales of workplace abuse. Add this bill to your populist - for the people - agenda.