The question about reporting the workplace bully always comes up inevitably when working with targets. Targets want to know whether they should report because they want the bullying to stop.
Many experts are clear about this and they direct targets to report no matter what. Their logic is that making administration or leadership aware of the bullying will help improve the work environment. If organizations and leadership responded like they should, this would always be the go-to option. However, we know that organizations fail to intervene often allowing the bullying to continue. As such, I advise targets to careful consider the consequences of reporting before they make that leap.
First and foremost, targets should seek consultation from people who know about workplace bullying and can offer sound advice. It is also beneficial to discuss reporting with other trusted workers in their organization if possible.
Many times, reporting can benefit targets. Targets should report if they have leadership and administration that hold workers accountable and that are not afraid to confront a challenging issue.
However, reporting the workplace bullying can make the work setting even worse than it already is. Once a bully is outed, they tend to become more aggressive and retaliate. As such, targets need to consider four factors in their decision-making process about reporting.
One of the first considerations is to determine if administration has been alerted to the aggression before. If so, how many times and how did they react? Did they intervene effectively or not? If the organization has not taken previous complaints seriously, it is very unlikely that they would intervene effectively and stop the bullying.
The second factor to evaluate is the relationship between the bully and administration. Bullies work extremely hard at building strong relationships with administration. If this has been successful, administration is likely to believe the bully and administration’s view of the target is already tainted. .Bullies who have strong ties to administration have reported their version of what is happening in the workplace, which includes badmouthing the target. Therefore, the aggressor has credibility with administration and complaints about workplace bullying will fall by the wayside.
The relationship between the target and administration is the third factor to assess. If the target does not have a solid relationship with administration, it may be difficult for leadership to want to intervene. Administration may already be under the impression that the target is the “troublemakers.” Administration may view the target as unreliable, and this could affect how serious they take the allegations. The allegations may immediately be discounted based on administration's views of the target.
On the other hand, if the target trusts administration and has good working relationship, they may consider reporting. They need to assess how administration has reacted and addressed concerns that they have alerted them about in the past.
The final consideration is the impact of the consequences and fall out from reporting the bully. Workplace bullying in and of itself is difficult to manage. Targets need to make sure they are prepared to manage increased workplace abuse including retaliation and additional aggression by administration and the bully. If they decide to report, targets need to be prepared for both positive and/or negative outcomes.
Reporting workplace bullying is very important. However, it may not always be the best option. Targets need to consciously assess the advantages and disadvantages of reporting. Ultimately, the decision to report should focus on what is in their best interest at this time.
Call to Action:
If you are being bullied, develop a pros and cons list of reporting the workplace bullying.