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How to Talk to Your Boss About a Bully at Work

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If a co-worker or supervisor persistently subjects you to aggressive, demeaning or hostile behavior, you're probably on the receiving end of workplace bullying. About 35 percent of the nation's workers, or 53.5 million Americans, report being bullied on the job as of 2013, the Workplace Bullying Institute indicates. To prevent further incidents, you must convince a supervisor to intervene. Your best option is a non-emotional outline of how the bully's behavior hurts the organization's revenues or working relationships.

Document the Behavior

Get as much evidence as possible before meeting your boss or human resources manager. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety recommends keeping a written log of each incident -- including the date, time and outcome -- plus any witnesses' names. Keep copies of any e-mails, faxes, letters or memos that you've gotten from the offender. If the bully has flouted or ignored specific policies dealing with harassment, respect or violence, note those violations, too.

Get Management Involved

When you're ready to proceed, request a meeting with your immediate supervisor. At large companies, you'll probably be expected to meet with a human resources department manager or representative, "U.S. News World & Report" career writer Chrissy Scivicque advises. in that case, describe each incident that you've noted, and how it affects your ability to work productively. Emphasize that you don't want a confrontation, but need the department's help to find a solution that suits all parties' best interests.

Make a Business Case

At family-owned or small businesses, you may be appealing to the person who first hired or promoted the bully. If so, the institute recommends outlining how the bully hurts the bottom line. Include the costs of absenteeism, lost productivity and staff replacement that the situation has created. Although it may feel difficult, keep emotion out of the discussion. A company cares most about profitability, so a good employer has to decide if the facts you present justify keeping the bully around.

Other Considerations

Give the employer one chance to address your grievances. Think about moving on if your supervisor minimizes the behavior, or the human resources department fails to respond in a timely manner. This scenario also applies if your bully is the boss, and no higher authority exists to hear complaints, the CareerCast website advises. No matter what happens, put your own well-being first. Your employer controls all aspects of your work environment, including its health and safety. If these factors aren't present, you may be better off working somewhere else.


Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.

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