Several high-profile cases of late have thrust bullying among youth into the national spotlight. Yet, unfortunately, bullying doesn't always stop with the end of childhood. Workplace bullying is a form of harassment that may encompass abusive language or behavior. If you're feeling harassed at the office, take action by following these five steps:
1. Confront your colleague.
Before taking any official steps, it's important to have a conversation with the person who has been bullying you. Let him know how his behavior is affecting you and firmly request that he stop. Maybe your colleague thought he was being funny or didn't realize he'd been acting unprofessionally. If you do go on to report the bully to your supervisor, make sure it goes on record that you tried talking to him or her directly first.
2. Keep careful records.
Before filing a formal complaint, be sure to document each incidence of the bully's intimidating or offensive behavior. Include dates and times on each account and note any eyewitnesses who can corroborate your claims. Keep copies of any written or digital correspondence you've had with your colleague.
3. Find out if you're employed in a single-consent recording state.
In single-consent recording states, only one party is required to consent to the recording of a conversation. If the state where you work is single-consent, it's legal for you to record any verbal exchanges you have with the bully to be used as evidence when you make a complaint or take legal action. To learn if your state is a single-consent state, check here.
4. Report the incidents and file a complaint.
At most companies, it's best to discuss the situation with your direct supervisor first, before speaking with senior management or going directly to human resources. Assure your boss that you would like to continue doing your job, but you'll be unable to if your colleague's behavior continues.
If the bully in question is your supervisor, speak with an HR representative first about the best way to proceed. Remember to keep detailed records of all correspondence with HR and management, including their responses. If you end up taking legal action, you'll need that documentation as evidence of your complaint and the company's handling of it.
5. Consult an attorney who specializes in employment law.
If your company fails to remedy the situation after you've spoken with human resources and management and formally filed a complaint, the next step is to seek legal advice and possibly representation. If you're a woman, minority, or other protected class, be sure to inquire about whether there are any discrimination laws that may also be relevant to your situation.
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