As advocates of the Healthy Workplace Bill in Massachusetts, we’ve all read comments on online workplace bullying articles telling targets to just get a tough skin or a new job — that life is just hard, and bullying on the job is just another problem that we have to deal with.
Workplace abuse experts compare workplace bullying with domestic violence. In the recent past, it was perfectly legal for a husband to beat his wife. Imagine telling a battered wife to “just leave” or to “toughen up” as her self-esteem worsens but yet she needs to rebuild her life. Doesn’t sound simple, does it?
A workplace abuse target faces a similar problem. As bullies encourage targets who care about their work and organizations to question their abilities, targets feel beaten down and lose confidence to find another job. Even if they do have the strength to find another job, they generally need months to find other work — and endure more abuse during those months.
And those who’ve experienced workplace abuse know that the only way to “solve” the problem is to leave the organization. Speaking up is ineffective according to a study by the Workplace Bullying Institute.
This tough skin that some speak of — tolerating often months of abuse before leaving an organization — leaves many targets with health problems and many businesses with more costs (absenteeism, training new employees, lawsuits) than if they had addressed the problem to begin with and disciplined the bully.
“Get a tough skin” and “just find a new job” aren’t smart or realistic answers when it comes to addressing workplace bullying.