Don’t Bow Down to the Office Bully

Almost any overly aggressive, inappropriate or unprofessional behavior–particularly if it occurs repeatedly and is designed to intimidate, humiliate or undermine–fits the bill. This includes being routinely yelled at, cursed at, insulted, gossiped about or excluded. Left unchecked, bullies cut to the heart of a company’s productivity and damage the bottom line as their victims’ morale and confidence plummet resulting in lost time at work due to stress related illnesses that can lead them to quit or, in the most extreme instances, even commit suicide.

Workplace bullying is no joke.

Sadly, the weak economy and high unemployment have combined to make office bullying numbers go up, but the incidence of reporting has gone down. Fearful of losing their jobs, victims are not seeking intervention. Even more sadly, the baseline abominable behavior we’ve become accustomed to in our reality-TV driven culture, has made many of us more accepting of treatment that is outrageously unacceptable. But Kelly didn’t hesitate to sound the alarm.

When the company’s regional sales manager berated her for “poor” sales, Kelly did her own research and discovered that 2011 sales goals were much higher than they had been the year before, despite the economy and the fact that half of her gym was under renovation. She also found that, while they were below goal, her team was exceeding actual 2010 sales, something the regional manager had failed to mention.

When the regional manager told Kelly that the other GM’s resented her for suggesting changes to corporate, Kelly reached out to her peers directly and learned that they was a lie. In fact, the other GMs confided that they also felt mistreated but, unaware that it was a general issue, they’d been afraid to speak up.

Armed with this information, Kelly fired off a letter to the company president and her direct boss, documenting in detail the regional manager’s behavior and accusing her of creating a hostile work environment that was detrimental not only to her success, but to the company’s overall success. The president is looking into it himself.

While the outcome isn’t yet clear, Kelly is. “I won’t work with someone like that, period,” she told me. “The company will decide who they want to keep. If it’s not me, I’ll find another job. What bothers me is that so many of the other people I work with don’t have the confidence to say that. Or they just can’t afford to take the risk.”

A tight economy is no excuse to tolerate poor, unfair treatment. Don’t get bullied, get help from Human Resources. And, if you have no other option, get out. No job is worth your self-respect or your health.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments: Have you ever been bullied at work?