“How can I stop co-workers from bullying me?”

Question: I have been bullied by three co-workers for the last three months. One has even threatened “I will take you down.”

Recently, I was injured on the job because two of these colleagues refused to assist me in an assigned task I was doing by myself that required two people.

Because of that injury, I have been placed on a Workers Compensation leave of absence. My manager told me not to mention to the Workers Compensation Board that my co-workers contributed to the cause of the injury. 

How can I stop these people from bullying me?

Brantford, Ontario

Answer: Dear Diane: Like all human beings, employees can be both very nice, and very mean, to each other. Sooner or later, we all “bump into” bullies.

Fortunately, the law in most states of the U.S., and in most of Canada, too, says that employers must take reasonable steps to halt hostility at work, PROVIDED they have first been made aware of it. For this reason, the very first thing you need to do is to make your employer aware of it, in a way that cannot be questioned, doubted or denied: in an “email record” of what happened, and that you reported what happened, including your manager’s refusal to intervene to stop the bullying. This you should do in an email addressed to the CEO, President, Board of Directors or owner of the company. Name the bullies, describe their tactics, and demand an immediate halt.

If you would like to obtain a Model memo to help you report Discrimination, Harassment or Hostility [click here].

Once you’ve done this, your employer then knows that, if it does nothing to stop the bullying, it can be sued for allowing a “hostile workplace environment.” And once you’ve done that, if the bullying does not stop, you then can either (a) file a complaint with your local labor board, or (b) consider hiring an attorney to assist you in suing the company.

I think you should also include in your “email complaint” that you are being urged to lie to the Workers Compensation investigators, which would be a crime, and that your manager may be trying to get you to quit to cover up what he or she is demanding of you: that you lie.

I think you should also make a report with local police authorities that you have been threatened with bodily harm by your colleague who threatened to “take you down.”

Most people shy away from filing written complaints about illegal or improper behavior, out of fear that they will just be harassed more. However, reporting the behavior in a verifiable way is the only true way to stop it.

In their hearts, most bullies are cowards. They are so insecure in themselves that they only feel good when they have “power over” others – the power of fear and intimidation. Once a bully knows you don’t fear him or her, the bully usually feels bad, and no longer bothers you, but instead finds another person to victimize. Standing up to a bully – by reporting everything the bully has done and is doing to authorities – is the strongest weapon you have against the bully. It is hard to stand up to bullying. But inside, I think you know that not standing up to a bully will only continue the bullying, or make things worse. Not standing up to a bully only makes him or her feel more powerful, and encourages them to continue. 

Going to work each day must be very hard for you. I pray you will have the courage to stand up for yourself in this way, and then go on to a more peaceful and productive life at work.

Hope this helps. I really do. 

           Best, Al Sklover

©  2010 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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