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Does anyone have a short sharp way of dealing with work place bullies?

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Question - (15 April 2019) 5 Answers - (Newest, 19 April 2019)
A female United Kingdom age 41-50, anonymous writes:

Does anyone have a short sharp way of dealing with work place bullies? I have approached my employer and he says he does not see it. I am ridiculed about my age my appearance, my unmarried status and shockingly having children out of marriage and told by women colleagues I do the job the men used to do and by the men I am undermined - if I join in a conversation at quiet times I am talked over or ignored and most recently have been lied to about decisions the management made when it was my colleagues! I feel I no longer wish to work there but am financially not able to leave and have begun to feel unable to even feel able to search for other employment as at my age my reason for leaving my present job seems so embarrassing. I have resigned myself to now turning up each day like a half dead zombie as there seems no other choice.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (19 April 2019):

I don't mean to embarrass you, but do you struggle with depression or suspect you might have a mental health issues? I'm not trying to gaslight you, just speaking from experience. I think the bullying dynamic is similar to how pathogens (like viruses) attack organisms: there has to be a susceptible host for the virus to thrive. For example, the parvo virus might kill dogs but doesn't affect humans. People with poorly regulated emotions or thought processes (like autistic kids, adults with depression) are ideal targets for bullies because they react strongly to taunts. Someone who is chill, sure of themselves, and slow to anger is a poor target for a bully. Bullies will try their antics on everyone in their environment, then land or fixate on an individual who gives them an opening. Just like a pathogen. Since grade school I was targeted by bullies until I finally went on meds for my emotional dysfunction, and I am simply not bullied anymore. Recently as a waitress, some customers would come up to me deliberately to pick fights. I just don't let them anymore; they can't get a rise out of me. It comes naturally to me now.

Bullies need to be stopped in their tracks the first time they try out their game with you. The way you know someone is trying to bully you is if something they say or do makes you feel uncomfortable in your gut. Common, trusted first-line defenses are:

"That was really inappropriate and I don't appreciate it."

"That really didn't add anything to the conversation."

"That was a very personal question."

"That behavior is unacceptable."

"I'm sorry, I'm just not going to tolerate that behavior."

These sentences work. This is like the immune system stopping a virus at the gate. If you don't acknowledge your own level of discomfort, the bully will, and establish an attack pattern with you. Being able to acknowledge your level of discomfort is the first step towards establishing boundaries of what you will and will not tolerate.

For your current situation, unfortunately there is no out except finding a new workplace, *maybe* seeking a consultation with psychologist and/or psychiatrist (again I am not suggesting you are at fault or trying to gaslight you), and in your new job, try to establish friendships and relationships with many people. It is harder to bully someone who is socially networked. As for funds, have you tried welfare, minimum wage service jobs? There is always something even if not the best option.

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A reader, anonymous, writes (19 April 2019):

Another option is to start documenting all of the abuse (emails, audio recordings), then slap a 100-page harassment complaint down on the desk of your HR coordinator, and walk out of there with a nice settlement. It will cost them less to pay you out then defend themselves over two years in an employment lawsuit. It worked for me, and I was in a worse situation than yours. At the time I didn't know how to fight the abuse head-on so I did the best I could. Be prepared that HR will always take the manager's side, and will do what is cost effective for the company, not what is "right".

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A female reader, Youcannotbeserious United Kingdom + , writes (16 April 2019):

Youcannotbeserious agony auntPersonally I would never give a reason for leaving past employment which might give a new employer cause for concern. By that I mean that, if you tell the potential new employer you want to leave your current employment because you feel bullied, they may assume you are easily bullied, or inclined to make accusations about bullying, and may feel concerned by this. I interviewed a lady for a job a while ago who told me she had an ongoing unfair dismissal case pending against her previous employer. Major red flag. Big black mark. The last thing employers want is someone who sounds like they may cause problems for them.

There are plenty of reasons you can give for wanting to change jobs without making it sound like you are doing it just to get out of a bad situation. Say you feel you have gone as far as you can in your current job and are looking for new challenges. Research the potential new employer and tell the interviewer you really want to work for their company because they are market leaders or some other similar reason. You could even tell them that you have heard rumours your current employers are about to make redundancies and you need secure employment.

Get out there, find something else and convince them you are worth taking on. You spend too much time at work to be so miserable. You can do this.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (16 April 2019):

This comes from someone who has- and is- working in a hostile work environment. It takes a huge toll on mental health. Please know that the problem is widespread, so you aren't alone in dealing with this stress.

I can see why you want to keep your job for financial reasons as well as other difficulties. For my own part, there are parts of my job I fully enjoy, so I am not willing to give it up because of other people's prejudices or unprofessionalism. Keep this in mind when you struggle. It shouldn't be you who has to leave.

If you decide to stay you have to develop strategies to rise above their snarky comments. Mentally prepare yourself with some meditation strategies (I'm serious) and envision floating above it all. Seek counselling and they can give you further tips.

I can say from experience that if you show that their comments and attempts to isolate you are not getting to you, they may lessen in time when they see they are unable to break you down. Some days will be better than others (hopefully). You have to develop a new attitude accepting the reality and just going in and dealing with it. That is the only way if you want to continue. Are there any decent people at your work? Try to develop at least one confidant, which can help you get through the days.

What do you think is motivating their terrible behaviour? Jealousy? Other reasons? If you can get to the root of the motivation, you may be able to fend off some of the comments. But you will never be able to change their vicious natures. The best revenge is just doing your best work, and don't pay attention to the haters.

Don't be afraid to assert yourself when necessary. Sometimes the nicest people are targeted because they are seen as weak or without opinions. Next time they start throwing around opinions or comments, jump right in and disagree. It will impress them if you aren't the kind of person to usually get into conflict. I am not advocating for you to fight with them, but sometimes it is necessary to show them you have some balls.

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A male reader, WiseOwlE United States + , writes (16 April 2019):

It almost seems they have no regulation over hostile work-environment, bullying, and job-discrimination in the UK; if I had to go by the frequent posts we receive under that topic.

You will have to seek yourself an attorney who practices in labor discrimination law.

Most employers hire employees on a "right to hire/right to fire" basis. They deliberately turn their heads or play dumb; when employees complain about sexual-harassment, age-discrimination, on-the-job bullying, and intimidation. You can't just change jobs at the drop of a hat! If too many employers think they aren't liable for their poor-management practices; they have to be educated.

Many employers are scornful or under-appreciative of their senior long-term staff; because of approaching retirement, higher costs for employer premiums for healthcare, and just plain ageism. There's no getting around that! They'll deny it until they're blue in the face; even when the violation is occurring right before their very eyes, and they are themselves participatory in the egregious behavior!!

You should seek new employment. You may have no choice if they choose to ignore the fact you are mistreated by your co-workers; and they even seem to condone it.

Mature employees tend to receive this kind of treatment universally; and many employers do nothing about it. Apparently you have complained; so they'll intimidate you by pretending you're an incompetent worker. A subtle way of threatening you; and alleviating themselves of legal liability for failing to resolve the issues.

In the US, we have labor laws, and employers are required to have seminars on conduct in the workplace and sexual-harassment; and by law, must distribute manuals regarding company policy on conduct and work-ethics. If your employer doesn't enforce proper conduct; they are fully liable for the behavior of their workers.

Go see a labor attorney, and get professional-advice.

Meanwhile, you must seek a new job. They are likely to get rid of you; if you're showing signs of emotional-strain, or your job-performance isn't up to par. You can't maintain your mental or physical-health under such conditions; so you need outside help from a legal source. It will also protect you from an unfair dismissal.

If they attempt to fire you for seeking legal-counsel for being a victim of a hostile or discriminatory work-environment; they just may face a law-suit that will devastate their bottom-line! Their liability insurance will skyrocket; even if nothing ever comes of a lawsuit.

They're counting on your fear and timidness to keep you in-check. If you get a lawyer, that will change.

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