Victims of workplace bullying can suffer from anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression and physical ailments associated with chronic stress (e.g., high blood pressure, migraines, stomach troubles, heart disease, etc.). Studies also show that when under constant stress, people are less able to regulate their emotions, to concentrate, and to make decisions, which may make people perform their job poorly.
If you are the victim of workplace bullying, here are 15 empowering strategies to consider:
1. Check your mental health with a qualified therapist. Get emotionally stable enough to make a clear-headed decision to stay and fight, or to leave for your health's sake. Your Autism Spectrum Disorder makes you vulnerable. However, don’t agree to be treated by a therapist who doesn’t believe your experience, and who simply wants to change you so that you won’t trigger similar reactions from future bullies.
2. No one is responsible for being bullied, for inviting agony upon himself or herself. Some employers want a catfight between employees so that they can blame it on "personality conflict." Hold their feet to the fire. Expose the bully. Demand changes (“for the sake of the company”).
3. Don’t ask others to make the bully stop for your sake. They will disappoint you. Instead, make the “business case” and ask them to stop bullying for “their own” self-interests.
4. Don’t confide in anyone at your place of employment until he or she has demonstrated loyalty to you.
5. Don’t limit your decisions to act in ways that sacrifice personal integrity and health just to survive to make a paycheck. Survival techniques alone create even more severe, long-term health and career problems. If the company won’t change, plan your escape.
6. Don’t pay a retainer to an attorney until you've exhausted cheaper alternatives to get your boss to take your complaints seriously.
7. Don’t share your “documentation of bullying episodes” with anyone at work. No one cares as much as you do. In the wrong hands, it will probably be used against you.
8. Don’t tell your tale from a purely emotional-injury angle. It scares away potential supporters. Stay objective. If you drift into emotional stories about the psychological damage from the bully's maltreatment, you will be discounted and discredited.
9. Don’t try to reinvent yourself as Rambo. If you would have been able to be “cutthroat,” you would have done that already. You don’t need to mimic the unethical bully to counter his or her wrongdoing.
10. Don’t wait for the impact of bullying to fade over time. Harassment must be stopped for the effects on you to stop.
11. Give your boss one chance. If he or she sides with the bully because of personal friendship or rationalizes the harm inflicted on you, you need to leave the job for your health's sake. However, some bosses are looking for reasons to purge their very difficult bully. You’re their internal consultant with the necessary information. Help good bosses purge.
12. Hold your boss accountable for putting you in harm's way. It is not your responsibility as a victim to “fix” the bullshit you didn’t start. Employers control the work environment. When you’re injured as a result of exposure to workplace bullying, make the boss own his or her responsibility to remedy the situation.
13. Make a case that the bully is "too expensive to keep." Present some data to let the highest level person you can reach know about the bully's impact on the company (of course, this is impossible in a family-owned business or small businesses – so leave once targeted).
14. Research state and federal legal options (in a quarter of bullying cases, discrimination plays a role). Talk to an attorney. Look for internal policies (e.g., harassment, violence, respect) for violations to report.
15. If needed, take control of your departure from the company. Statistically speaking, you have about a 60% chance of losing your job once targeted by bullies. Exposing the bully is more about your mental health than being an effective way to get the bully fired. Since you’re likely to leave once you’re targeted, leave by telling everyone what happened to you – and by whose hands. Tell everyone about the petty tyrant for your health's sake. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You were only doing the job you once loved. Those who leave proudly and confidently bounce back the fastest!