Lutgen-Sandvik agrees that co-workers can make a big difference. She recommends a co-worker try "pivoting" the conversation if a bully says something disrespectful to a colleague. Pivoting means taking the conversation immediately in another direction without directly challenging the bully's insults. She also says it helps to say positive things about co-workers.
Sometimes co-workers need to involve supervisors. McMillan says to stick to the facts if this is done. The topic should be what was said and when.
Lutgen-Sandvik says people shouldn't be afraid of getting the bully fired, or even making the suggestion.
The Workplace Bullying Institute has attempted to get laws against workplace bullying in several states — so far without success. The goal, Namie says, is mostly to get employers to end bullying in their companies.
It may be, however, because of his position in the company, the bully won't be cowed, reprimanded or fired. In cases where the victim was required to go through mediation with the bully, 33 percent of the time the victim was fired or quit. The perpetrators were fired only 3 percent of the time, according to a Workplace Bullying Institute study.
Namie suggests in some cases victims consider finding a new job, particularly if the incidents are occuring at a small family-owned business or if the bully has close ties to a high-level executive at a company.
"If there is really no one to appeal to and make your argument," he says, "you may have to leave." But, he says, "leave swinging."
Make sure the company knows why (and because of whom) you are leaving, he says.
Leaving includes transferring to another job in a larger company or just quitting.
"Removing yourself from a toxic environment is not failure," Horn says. "It is a statement that you value yourself more than allowing yourself to stay in that situation. It means you believe you should be in a work relationship that has respect."
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