How Can I Defend Myself Against Co-Workers

Question:

I think my situation is very difficult to resolve. I am bullied by a group of older co-workers. I am afraid every move from me against them will get their revenge. To make the situation worse, they back each other up. The best solution is asking my boss to move me to somewhere else (same job and I love my job), but only the current location is suitable for my job. I have tried to focus on my job, tried to be busy all the time to avoid exposure to them. However, I still often have to deal with them because we work in the same office. I can not avoid them all the time. There is a woman that even often calls me names trying to drag me in to an argument or trying to push me down.

It does not end there. Probably one of them would become my boss when my current boss retired. If I do report their behaviors to my current boss, you can imagine the consequence. Well, to make the matter worse, there are other co-workers besides these jerks, even though they don’t say anything, they really want my job. How can I deal with this? HELP!

Signed,

Attacked


Answer:

DearĀ Attacked:

It sounds to me as though you have few choices: You can either do nothing and continue to suffer, do something and maybe help or maybe suffer more, or leave. But taking the role of a helpless victim makes you more helpless! Please think of yourself as someone who has choices! You do not say what is happening or what names you are being called. But, if you have an organization large enough to have an HR section you should go to them with your concerns and ask for an investigation or for assistance. That way if things get worse, you are more likely to have some official protection, and a record that you complained. Do not make your boss look bad by saying that he or she would not help you, just say that you didn’t want to put your boss in the middle of it.

You also don’t say what you may be doing to contribute to this situation. I’m not saying you are doing it purposely, but it hardly seems likely that people would dislike you for no reason at all. Ask your friends there to tell you honestly how they see the situation. Is there some aspect of your behavior or work that makes them angry or gets on their nerves? Why you?

If you are doing a good job your boss won’t want to lose you, and you will most likely be able to get help. If your work or behavior is a problem, your boss may not be so likely to help you. That will be one clue for you: If you can’t get any help and everyone tells you to quit, they really mean there is something about your work or behavior that makes them wish they could replace you.

The bottom line is that there are people who will help you if they know your concerns. But, being silent and acting afraid is not going to help and will only make things worse. If the people you describe are truly mean, it will make them happy to see you unhappy. If they are not mean, only insensitive to your feelings, they might stop if they know how you feel. And they may stop if your boss knows how you feel and knows what they are doing. Before you label them bullies, work to see what is going on in the background and stand up for yourself appropriately. Then, if that doesn’t work, you either will have to tolerate it or quit. There are no miracle cures for workplace issues, but the solutions always start with employees taking personal responsibility for their own feelings, actions and reactions.

Best wishes.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.