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What do you do when the bully is at the top? (Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail.)
What do you do when the bully is at the top? (Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail.)

Nine To Five

What do you do when the bully is at the top? Add to ...

THE QUESTION

I have been working in the developmental sector helping people with disabilities for 15-plus years, with the last seven of them working for a bully. She often criticizes my appearance, raises her voice to me, intimidates, ignores – and most recently threatened to fire me. She does this to just about everyone and yet continues to get away with it.

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The organization and provincial government talk about workplace violence and harassment and have created policies and training programs. But what do you do when the bully is at the top?

 

THE FIRST ANSWER

Pamela Jeffery

Founder, Women’s Executive Network, Toronto

There is no easy fix here but it’s also clear that the working environment your boss has created is unacceptable. My best advice is to take a stand and be prepared for the consequences. This is the only way to deal with a bully wherever they are: on the playground, in the school yard, online, or at work.

When it comes to the workplace, provincial human rights codes are designed to offer equal rights and opportunities and to prevent discrimination and harassment. It’s the law and it’s on your side. That means you can file a complaint with your provincial human rights tribunal, which will in turn look into the situation and decide how best to intervene.

Before you go that route – if in fact that’s something you are willing to do – I have to ask: Have you confronted your boss about her behaviour? Is she aware of the impact of her inappropriate and hurtful comments? Does she even realize what she’s doing is wrong?

Have you spoken with your co-workers who are also facing her barbs to see if you can form a united front and confront her together? There really is strength in numbers. Has the human resources department been informed? Does your board know about her behaviour?

The only way to move forward is by being completely transparent and professional and it starts by speaking with the bully. That said, you also have to be aware of the potential fallout, which could very well mean looking for a new job elsewhere. Are you ready for that possibility?

 

THE SECOND ANSWER

Heather Faire

Human resources executive, Atlanta

Being bullied can be incredibly stressful and demoralizing. While I applaud you for remaining committed to your work and your employer for the last seven years, you should now consider putting this situation to an end.

You could seek out and pursue the policies and resources at your workplace to deal with inappropriate behaviour or conduct, or you could pursue employment elsewhere. Either choice allows you to take the control and try to make things better.

Make your choice based on both the short-term and the long-term consequences. How much do you love your job and where you work? Is it worth it to go through the complaint process and risk potential negative feelings if you have to continue to work with the leader in question? Conversely, how likely is it that you will find a similar job somewhere else? How difficult would that search be?

I know these suggestions may seem simple and obvious, but they are tough decisions. Give them thought, take control and then take action. I wish you luck and hope you choose the answer that is best for you and your future.

 

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that minefield? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com. Confidentiality ensured. Weigh in with your view at tgam.ca/careers. Check out past columns here.

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