When people talk to me about workplace bullying, they often ask, what can I do to help? The following list is hardly exhaustive, but it’s a starting place:
1. Don’t — Don’t be a workplace bully. It starts with each of us.
2. Stand up — Stand up for someone who is being bullied. Silence equals permission.
3. Support — Similarly, support friends, colleagues, and family members who are experiencing bullying at work. Validate their concerns and, where appropriate, guide them to coaching, counseling, and legal assistance. (For some resources, go here.)
4. Ask — Ask your employer to educate employees about workplace bullying and to include an anti-bullying policy in the employee handbook.
5. Post — If you read an article on workplace bullying, post a comment to it online, voicing your support for taking this problem seriously. Help to generate momentum for the anti-bullying movement.
6. Talk — Yes, just talk about it with others. Without making a pest of yourself to your friends, family, and associates, discuss bullying as part of the workplace experience for many employees.
7. Law reform — Support anti-bullying legislation. For readers in the U.S., get active in the grassroots campaign to enact the Healthy Workplace Bill in states around the nation (link here). (Full disclosure: I’m the author of the Healthy Workplace Bill, so I do have an interest in seeing it enacted!)
8. Unions — If you are a member of a union, lobby your union leaders to educate members about workplace bullying and to negotiate an abusive supervision clause in the collective bargaining agreement, as discussed here.
9. Faith — If you are a member of a church, synagogue, or mosque, encourage your congregational leaders and fellow members to include workplace bullying among their social action concerns.
10. Connect — We must connect workplace bullying to other forms of interpersonal abuse, such as school bullying, cyber bullying, and domestic abuse. There are many unfortunate similarities between them, and helping others to understand this will serve as a powerful consciousness raising mechanism.
Words of caution
Some of these actions carry personal risks. There is something very threatening about this topic to certain individuals and organizations. Furthermore, when someone is suffering due to workplace bullying, they may be in a difficult place psychologically. Thus, please consider:
1. Those who stand up for bullying targets may find themselves next on the firing line. This is a very real possibility.
2. A bad employer may consider you a troublemaker simply for asking that the organization oppose these behaviors.
3. Posting a comment online about workplace bullying may lead to some people to ridicule your concerns.
4. Providing homebrewed psychological counseling or legal advice is not only unwise, but also illegal if you are not licensed to provide such assistance.