How to deal with workplace bullies - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

How to deal with workplace bullies

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HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

We've talked a lot about bullying at school and on the internet, but how about bullying in the workplace?

One study reveals 35 percent of all working Americans claim they've been a victim of bullying. That's an estimated 53.5 million people.

One North Alabama woman, who we'll call Susan, said a co-worker verbally abused her on a daily basis.

Typically workplace bullying is more of a non-physical form of violence. Susan said she put up with it, never standing up to the bully.

"I was scared to jeopardize my job," she said.

And that silence, Susan admitted, is probably why the woman continued to pick on her.

"My nerves were shot," she explained. "I'd be shaking by the time I got to work."

Susan said she started having panic attacks, hair loss, migraines, and dangerously high blood pressure.

You might be wondering why Susan never told her supervisors about this. She said on several occasions during these incidents, there were at least two supervisors present.

In fact, she said they pulled her aside and said just to leave it alone. Susan said her co-workers turned their backs on her, too, after she said she begged them for help.

By her third year of this, she had taken all of her annual allotted vacation days before May. She just couldn't face it anymore, so she quit.

Huntsville psychologist Dr. Roger Rinn said workplace bullying is nothing new. In fact, he said it's been around as long as workplaces have existed, we just use new terminology.

"My concern would be that calling people bullies requires somebody to be a victim," said Rinn.

Rinn said these bullies are actually the ones with the real problems.

"Almost always these individuals have self-esteem problems," he explained. "They feel inadequate about something, so they take it upon themselves to push somebody else around."

Rinn said people allow themselves to become victims. Like Susan, they don't stand up and say, "stop."

"Some people just need to toughen up and talk back," said Rinn. "They're not assertive enough."

Those people can actually develop symptoms consistent with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But beyond talking back to your harasser, Rinn said there's nothing wrong with telling supervisors or going to human resources. If that fails, Dr. Rinn suggests legal recourse.

"A lot of companies will really respond if you just use the phrase 'hostile work environment.' They don't want that because that means lawsuit coming down the road," Rinn said.

In the meantime, Susan is left without a job, with medical bills to pay, and with thoughts of what she should have done. She hopes others in her situation will learn from her.

"Don't let it take away your livelihood and your way of life," she said.

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