Bullying and Favortism

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about pals that bully.

My Director and a fellow co-worker are best friends on the outside. They sleep over at each others home, and they verbally bully certain co-workers they are not fond of, of which I am one because I speak up. Upper management is aware of this and has been for years. What can be done and how should H.R. handle this? Your help is greatly appreciated by many.

Signed, Bullied

Dear Bullied:

Since your company probably is large enough to have a branch or branches, it probably has established policy regarding how complaints should be handled. You should have access to a policy book or can contact Human Resources/Personnel to get information about that.

The fact that you “speak up” is to your credit and it should be a buffer against bullying, rather than make you a target. You don’t say how long you have worked at this location nor do you say if you have confronted your director and coworker friend about bully behavior. Therefore, you may already have taken steps I will suggest; if not, they might be ones you will choose to take:

1. Log the incidents in which you have been bullied. Describe where, when, who bullied, what language was used, the context that prompted the bullying and who witnessed them. Recall what has happened in the past and note what happens for a couple of weeks. Also note what you have done to cope with each incident.

2. Analyze your role in those incidents. Note if you provoked any of them. Describe your workplace climate and culture. Is it one of ordering and close monitoring? Is boss/bossed talk one way and is speaking up viewed as insubordinate?

3. Describe the positive side of your director. Don’t allow the knowledge or rumor you have about his/her relationship with a coworker to sour evaluation of this individual.

4. Compile your performance reviews. Did your director evaluate you fairly? Did she/he invite your questions and views of how things were going? Prepare for this review by studying to what your organization is committed. In short, think of your job as not just a job, but as a career in this company.

5. With this background and log, you will have some overlapping options:

*Live with what is. Ignore “slights” you have thought is bullying and bite your tongue. Approach the whole matter indirectly by requesting/persuading your director to change from bossing to coaching. Bring a proposal to the director with ideas about how to cut wasted supplies, wasted time, and wasted money. Propose that a lean management program would profit your organization. In keeping with what you’ve learned about the values of your company, talk about your desire to have a career there. Such an indirect approach has the possibility of your director seeing you differently; and giving you the respect you deserve.

*Confront your director with your complaint. Define what you think is bullying by him/her and the coworker friend. Spell out the kind of communication and behavior you feel is disrespectful and plays favors. Speak with the Director to learn if boss/bossed communication can be two-way and encouraged rather than one way and speaking up feared.

*Bypass the director with a formal request to HR/Personnel for an investigation about bullying.Weigh these thoughts. Informally discuss them with coworkers who feel bullied, but don’t obsess and gossip about them. Stopping bullying can be approached from both or either an individual or taking the complaint upward. Any advice must be evaluated in light of what you have experienced and are experiencing. Hopefully some of my thoughts are on target. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. This is to say, stopping bullying takes courage on your part.

William Gorden