There’s no easy way to deal with an overly critical boss or a co-worker who wants to throw you under the bus. Reporting your concerns to a senior manager or HR can just exacerbate the problem sometimes, and there’s a fine line between verbal harassment and constructive feedback. When someone said on the Dice Discussions boards that he was being harassed and set-up to fail by his team lead, he got a range of replies.
Not long ago, Laura Casey discussed the subject in the Contra Costa Times. She shared a common motive for harassers courtesy of Gary and Ruth Namie, who founded the Workplace Bullying Institute in Bellingham, Wash.
Workplace bullying can happen in any workplace, Namie says, and the targets are usually people who simply want to do their work undisturbed. The bully can be a boss, co-worker or supervisor. According to 2010 research by Zogby International, 35 percent of workers have experienced bullying firsthand, what amounts to 53 million people. The study says that 62 percent of bullies are men, while 58 percent of targets are women. Women target women 80 percent of time. Workplace bullies are usually jealous of the target’s accomplishments and drive, the Namies say.
Another challenge: Suing for harassment may not be a viable solution.
The practice is not illegal in the workplace if it’s not based on discrimination and doesn’t fit the legal definition of harassment. Therefore, if a target chooses to take legal action they rarely win cases against their employers.
So what can you do to stop a harasser? Casey suggests seeing a therapist or work with a workplace bullying expert to develop strategies for coping. In some cases, asking an employer to fix the problem is appropriate – but it could backfire. According to Workplace Bullying Institute research, in some cases complaints are ignored or the bullying intensifies. In the worst case, if your health is being severely harmed, the institute suggests taking time off work or looking for a new job.
Identify the culprits.
What kind of bullies are out there? Here’s some:
Screaming Mimi: This bully isn’t afraid to yell at you. She controls through fear and intimidation, even throwing objects around the office.
Constant Critic: He’s an extremely negative nit-picker and aims to destroy confidence in your competence. He makes unreasonable demands for work with impossible deadlines and expects perfection.
Two-Headed Snake: This bully is passive-aggressive, dishonest and indirect. He smiles to hide aggression.
Gatekeeper: Controls all the resources you need to succeed, including money, staffing and time. She keeps her target out of the loop and makes new rules on a whim.
Have you encountered a Screaming Mimi, Constant Critic, Two-Headed Snake or a Gatekeeper? How did you stop them?
— Leslie Stevens-Huffman