Targeting Employees in the Workplace: How Bullied Workers Respond

Workplace bullies often target other employees for a number reasons. The bully can be anyone, whether a manager, coworker, or even sometimes a client or contracted worker. As with children in the schoolyard, a bully wants to put down others to make themselves appear better. Workers who bully can be a liability problem for employers.

Although workplace bullying is not strictly illegal, severe variations can become workplace harassment and hostile work environment. Therefore, it’s important to understand where the line is between casual bullying and severe bullying. When workers are unable to work due to the workplace bullying or an employee’s career is negatively impacted, this can be grounds for an in-house complaint and eventual lawsuit if nothing is adjusted.

Employee targeting manifests in varying levels of severity in the workplace. Although not all actions are illegal, when these actions are relentless, the workplace may be harboring a hostile work environment.

Examples of Employee Targeting

  • Sharing rumors
  • Using intimidation
  • Undermining work
  • Threatening abuse
  • Tampering with work standards
  • Rearranging responsibilities without reason
  • Creating impossible deadlines
  • Joking offensively
  • Blocking applications for leave, training, promotions

Recognizing that you are being targeted by coworkers or a manager can be difficult. But it is most easily spotted when you consider how others are treated. Although unfair treatment is not illegal, it may be a symptom to show that you are being targeted unfairly.

Melissa, an accountant, was looking forward to the company’s annual training seminar, but her manager came and assigned her work that would keep her from the training. When Melissa asked to attend, her manager told her that the project required all of her attention. When a surprise training workshop happened a month later, Melissa was again excluded even though all her similarly placed coworkers attended. She suspects that’s she’s being targeted.

Harry noticed that his coworker has stopped informing him of upcoming important meetings. He got yelled at by his boss for missing. Then, Harry’s boss called him into a meeting and relayed that a coworker had complained about Harry’s work. Harry is feeling bombarded on all sides.

Is My Employer Responsible for Fixing Workplace Bullying?

The law does require that employers care for their employees’ wellbeing. In fact, the health and safety of employees can be grounds for a lawsuit. Therefore, it’s important for your employer to protect employees from harassment and bullying.

Can I sue My Employer for Workplace Bullying?

Yes, but you must first show that you’ve done everything within your power to resolve the ongoing problem. This means that you must check your company handbook and file a complaint with your human resources department or supervisor about the treatment. If nothing is resolved, then you may choose to voluntarily quit because the workplace bullying had become a hostile work environment and file a lawsuit against your employer.

How Do I Respond to Workplace Bullying?

When you’re the target of ongoing workplace harassment and bullying, figuring out next steps can be difficult and frustrating. Take a deep breath. You are not the only one to experience this type of treatment so you can take steps to rise out of this situation well.

1. Get your bearings.

Bullies want a reaction. Do your best to outwardly ignore their behavior in hopes that they’ll stop in their own time. Of course, check your company handbook to see how your company wants such problems to be handled.

2. Keep track.

Document the behavior that is occurring and how it is influencing you and your work environment. Include the situation, day, time, and people present. This could become evidence to prove the ongoing treatment.

3. Call your bully out.

As long as you don’t feel physically threatened, it may be smart to confront your bullying coworker or manager about their behavior. Be confident and constructive. Hopefully, this conversation will be a turning point for your work interactions.

4. Report the treatment.

Depending on your company, you may not have many options in who to report to. Your best options are most likely to speak with your Human Resources department or a neutral supervisor. Be sure to report the problem both in person and in writing.

5. Watch for Hostile Work Environment or Workplace Harassment.

Although a lawsuit for bullying may not gain momentum, if your situation becomes hostile work environment or workplace harassment, you may have a case, especially if your employer does not take any action to resolve the ongoing problem.

If you have been targeted by a coworker or manager and are suffering from ongoing harassment in the workplace, consult a lawyer to find out what your options may be under the law.

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