Being bullied is one of the worst things that can happen to a human being. If you or someone close to you has ever been bullied, you know how unpleasant an experience it can be. It eats away at our self-esteem, our self image and can lead to depression and even violence in cases where victims are pushed over the edge.
Unfortunately, bullying isn't only limited to the school yard. It's has crept into college campuses and even into the corporate world. Adults who are bullied at work for prolonged periods keep to themselves, call in sick more often and find their relationships outside of work deteriorating. The proverbial downward spiral thus begins.
When you're being bullied, you essentially have three options. You can leave the situation, stand up to the bully or seek help to handle the bully. Leaving the situation is often the most desirable option to the person being bullied, but it's a temporary solution that should be reserved as a last resort. When you leave a situation, such as relocating, changing jobs or switching schools, even though the bully is physically distanced from you, he or she may still be with you psychologically. Once you've returned to a normal state of mind, you might look back at the bullying situation and feel that the bully got the best of you. You may also feel like you've been robbed of closure in the situation.
This is why leaving should be done only in extreme cases. Such as cases where you or someone around you is in danger of serious physical harm - and unfortunately, we're sometimes not aware of this kind of danger until it's too late. You need to take a serious look at the situation and evaluate the bully and ask yourself what he or she may be capable of. In these situations, part of that bully may continue to live within you, but it's easier to dismiss it as doing what's best for the safety of you and your family. We may never be able to forgive our enemies, but the next best thing is to forget them and not allow them to continue to torment us.
The second option is to confront the bully. In most cases, the bully has a self esteem problem and is only allowed to bully others because they are afraid to confront the bully and fight back. Bosses that bully in the workplace typically fit this scenario - they know that they are in a position of power so the people below them will put up with their ego trips because they fear losing their jobs, getting a bad performance review or being belittled in front of their coworkers.
The best way to handle this type of bullying is to simply call a spade a spade and tell the person that you refuse to continue to put up with the bullying. Speak to the bully in terms of his or her interests such as "what you're doing is bullying me and I don't like it and I won't stand for it!" Be firm and remind the bully of company rules on bullying and harassment. State clearly that the company does not tolerate that type of behavior and that neither the bully, nor his or her boss, want to see a complaint filed with the corporate human resources department, nor would it be in anyone's best interest if the company were to face a civil lawsuit
The bully may come back with things like it's a question of his or her word versus yours and that you have no proof. Don't back down. State that labor laws clearly favor the employee in these cases, you've already spoken to an attorney and that you've made notes of conversations and saved emails (this is an important thing to do) that serve as your proof - as a safeguard, keep copies of these items at home in case the bully has connections that can "magically" make them disappear. It's also important to have a conversation with someone in your HR department at work before you confront the bully so you can accurate state the procedures for dealing with these incidents to the bully. When you state things with confidence, people will not question whether you're telling the truth - this is often a trick that bullies themselves use.
It's important to understand how dangerous a bully is before you take any action. Chances are you're not the first person to have been bullied by this person in your office. You may find that others have stood up to the bully and that stopped it. People outside the office are a different story. The muscle head at the gym that pushes people around could have a criminal record as could the kid that just moved in next door.
There are countless news stories of cases where bulling has gone too far and resulted in the death of the victim. Don't let that happen to you. Research the bully in a discreet way. If you have the right connections or can afford to, do a background check or hire a private investigator - your life is worth the expense. If that's not an option, search the internet and ask others who know the bully for more information about him or her. Again, it's important to be discreet.
If you fear any potential harm to you or a loved one, start with your local police. If the police won't help, try any connections you may have in law enforcement. Try to get the people that you speak with to relate to your situation - that will increase the odds of them helping you. If the police can't help, speak to an attorney. If your budget won't allow for a retainer, try to find an attorney just starting out that may work without one.
If your problem is in the office, get your human resources department involved right away. Explain that you fear physical harm from the bully, but do so in a calm way. If you've already spoken to the police or an attorney, state so. Let them know that you mean business.
Of course, if you feel that you or a loved one is in danger in the immediate future, flee the situation. Call in sick, spend a few days out of town and do whatever you can to distance yourself from the situation. Use the time to gather your thoughts, create a plan and start making the connections that you need to.
Bullying is one of the most cowardly and despicable acts that one human can do to another. It takes many forms from the otherwise harmless lowlife in a position of power to someone that can put your life in danger. Remember to assess the situation, consider your options and then take action. But never put your life on the line, the bully isn't worth it.
© 2008 James Feudo
James Feudo is a speaker, author and trainer specializing in communication skills. James has developed a series of programs to help people improve how they communicate with themselves, others and to groups. You can learn more about James at www.jamesfeudo.com and visit his blog at blog.jvf.com where you can sign up for free tips delivered to your email inbox.