Many years of talking to targets of severe workplace bullying have reinforced my belief that we need to fashion multifaceted counseling approaches for people who are dealing with this form of abuse. At least three categories continually intersect:
Mental health counseling
We know what bullying at work can do to people: Anxiety attacks, depression, PTSD-type symptoms, and more. Bullying targets often need help dealing with these mental health outcomes and finding their way out of the morass. Therapists who understand workplace bullying can be essential in these circumstances.
Workplace bullying often poses a severe threat to one’s vocation or profession. Simple questions such as “should I stay or should I go?” are full of ramifications that may not be easily visible to someone who is struggling under the boot heel of a tormenter. Sometimes it is the catalyst for rethinking a career path. Career counseling or coaching can help someone explore these options and work through tough decisions.
As I have written extensively, even in the absence of direct legal protections against bullying, various claims such as tort law, discrimination law, and whistleblower protections may apply. In addition, possible employee benefit options may include workers’ compensation, disability benefits, unemployment insurance, and family & medical leave. A lawyer also may be able to help negotiate a severance agreement that includes provisions such as a positive reference. Sorting out these options often requires expert legal knowledge and assistance.
The Need for an Integrated Approach
These areas often overlap. Career options are going to be informed by a target’s mental health. Funding for counseling may require accessing employee benefits. A lawsuit may promise compensation but impacts both mental health and career decisions. Typically, however, it is up to the individual to bring together these various pieces. And when folks are in a state of distress, chances diminish that they will be able to do so.
I frankly don’t have any easy answers to this, but I think we should look at other social service settings where caseworkers attempt to draw together various service providers to help people in need. An integrated approach to helping targets of severe workplace bullying will be of great help to those who are trying to make sense of an array of often perplexing choices and difficult circumstances.