However, targets are often not believed by their co-workers and even their family and friends. This is because it seems so far-fetched that the adults would be involved in any sort of bullying. Their reports of workplace bullying are also discounted because others fail to put all the pieces of bullying together. Rather they are likely hearing about the most recent bullying events happening to the target. Most of the time, there are just too many bullying behaviors for a target to discuss. For example, a target might complain about receiving three or four unprofessional emails by the aggressor that week. These may not seem like such a big deal. However, the target failed to mention that they have received these types of emails every day for the last six months. Viewing the incidences in isolation seem minor. However, when you put all the incidences of bullying together, a much different picture is painted.
Not being believed causes targets to become a little desperate at times increasing their vulnerability, in and out of the workplace. So, when a co-worker reaches out to them for help, the target tends to jump in without thinking. They think finally someone believes me. However, this can cause more problems than it is worth.
Well-wishing co-workers want to help and often give advice hoping to improve the situation for the target. However, most people do not know how to effectively manage workplace bullying. As such, these suggestions might actually increase the workplace bullying for the target. Co-workers are likely to give advice to the target about how to manage conflict, such as go to their supervisor or human resources. These can be detrimental to a target causing the bully to retaliate.
Targets need to proceed with caution any time someone is offering advice or suggestions, no matter how much they want this. To assume a well-wishing co-worker is working in their best interest is to set themselves up for additional bullying and abuse in the workplace. This seems harsh, but in no way does a target want to do anything that will increase the negative treatment they are experiencing.
The workplace bullying culture is extremely complicated and it is difficult for targets to remain objective, especially when it comes to building allies. It is vital that a target of workplace bullying develop strategies to help them cope with the bullying culture. This includes a process of how to screen potential allies. Targets should not follow any advice from anyone until they fully vet the person who is offering help. They must also think through the likely positive and negative consequences for them if they follow the suggestions given.
There is no doubt that the workplace bullying environment takes a toll on the target. So, when a potential support person approaches and offers help, the target must think before they act in order to consider all the consequences. Due to the complexity of the bully culture, the target must always proceed with caution.
Call to Action
Learn what workplace bullying is and why targets are not believed.