Grow A Thick Skin and Get A New Job

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.

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4 comments

  1. Robbin Miller

    I agree that speaking up against the work bully may be a waste of time and be more harm than good. I learned this the hard way when upper management defended my supervisor when I complained that she was verbally bullying me. The question becomes “does the employee tell others on the public record to embarass the bully or to tell the people in their network in which the bully is a member of their experiences with that person at work?” I don’t how many people would believe me if I did tell them who bullied me at work since the bully knows the same people I do. I say this as it is possible that you both can be a public networking event in which you choose to ignore that person and your colleagues will be wondering what is going on between you and that person. What do you think?

  2. freida mickey

    I have experienced bullying in the workplace on many occasions, even involving mobbing. The best one can do is not let it get to you. Very difficult. Bullies have very sneaky ways. They always will. Unfortunately, even a HWB is no guarantee that the problem will ever go away. I am an independent person who tends to be rather quiet and while I do not give off such negative vibes, there are many, many insecure assholes roaming around. Their main goal in life is to find someone to destroy. Frankly, I have never seen it happen to people nearly as much as I myself have experienced it. One has to try very hard to keep one’s head, stay focused and professional. Bullies aim to provoke their target into a mis-step. If one is being harassed, it has to be handled very carefully. It’s when targets get too emotional or say the wrong things that gets them in trouble and that is what the bully wants. I think it’s a skill that requires much learning and honing. I just try to remember that the problem is not with me but with the bully. I won’t let them destroy my self-esteem.

  3. suki

    I find that the “bully” will often have you outwitted to begin with. They have been spending years and years perfecting their bullying lifestyle. They have already planted negative thoughts into others minds about their target. They do it so covertly and over time the audience comes to believe them. I find the majority of work bullies to be suffering from some sort of Personality Disorder. Often extremely clever and outsmarting others. Intelligence, charm and persuasion is an act they can carry quite well. Others do not think the way the bully thinks, therefore you don’t realize what you are up against until it is too late.

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