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If you or someone you love is experiencing bullying at work or school, one of the first steps to take is to write a letter to the people who can help solve the problem. Before you do that, though, start documenting every bullying incident. Write down the names, dates and the things that happened during each incident -- including the letters you wrote and conversations you had with officials -- so you'll have a clear timeline you can share throughout the process.
Whether it's at school or work, bullying can take many forms. It can involve spreading rumors about a person, excluding a person from activities everyone else is involved in, yelling at a person or making jokes about him. It can also involve making unwanted physical contact, or even violent behavior. The results of bullying can include missed days of school or work, anxiety, depression and feelings of helplessness. In the workplace, it can result in reduced productivity; at school, it can result in reduced performance. In both cases, bullying is something that affects the overall success of the institution, and something that school and workplace officials should take seriously.
Letters for School Bullying
Check the school or the school district's grievance policy to find out to whom to address your letter. Typically, a letter to the school counselor, a vice principal handling student relations or the principal will precede writing to other district officials. If the victim is a child, the parents or guardians should write the letter. Use your notes to explain the nature of the bullying, the dates of the most egregious incidents, and any actions you or the student have taken to resolve the issue. Ask school officials to investigate the issue and to take action against the perpetrators. You might also ask that your child be moved to another classroom or be allowed to switch schools, if you feel that's appropriate. In some cases, such as when the bullying is based on a student's race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion, federal discrimination laws may dictate that the school take specific actions to investigate and stop the harassment.
Letters for Workplace Bullying
About 27 percent of people have experienced bullying at work, suggests a 2014 survey from the Workplace Bullying Institute. Bosses are often the perpetrators, adds the WBI, which makes reporting bullying difficult. If the perpetrator is not your superior, first check your employee handbook for any guidelines about filing grievances. Typically, you'll address the letter to the human resources officer, your employee relations officer or a company leader who oversees personnel. State the facts of the situation, including the dates and details of the most egregious incidents. Adopt a neutral tone that doesn't resort to name-calling or passing judgements; this will help the reader see the situation from a more neutral, factual perspective. Make it clear how you'd like to see the situation resolved, such as an investigation, interviews with the perpetrators, and transfers for you or the perpetrators.
Escalate the Problem
If the perpetrator is your boss and there's no one above her, discuss the situation with an attorney. In some cases, federal discrimination laws may come into play, and your attorney can help you file a discrimination lawsuit. However, these situations are not routinely resolved in favor of the victims -- according to the WBI, victims are much more often the ones to lose their jobs as a result of bullying, at a rate of 82 percent for victims versus 18 percent for perpetrators.
In a school situation, don't stop if you don't get anywhere with the officials at your institution. Write another letter to higher district officials, or even to your state's board of education to report the lack of investigation into the matter, and request their help in helping keep your child safe.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.