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Bullied? When your HR lets you down

I thought being bullied was something which we all grew up with and we left that in the school yard (growing pains). Bullying takes many shapes and forms. It can be as simple as being ignored, being called names, not respected and not being invited to participate in activities. As we come into adulthood and enter university bullying sort of goes away as we should have found ourselves and are able to avoid being exposed to it. One would have that that along with maturity and age people would stop bullying.

Friends have been talking about being bullied in their workplace. At first I thought it was just some random ranting perhaps due to heavy work loads and office politics. Over time the more often I heard the examples of what was going on it seemed apparent that bullying is pretty much alive in the workplace. The process is the same — putting pressure on the person making them uncomfortable, which affects their mental health and well being, which then has a knock on effect on their mental health and personal lives. Superiors exert their power of domination on individuals, peers sabotage, subordinates don’t conform to what is expected. In the military there is the chain of command, so things are crystal clear to everyone. Apparently not so much in the corporate world.

The instigators conceal their cruel intentions by smiling to your face and working behind the scenes with HR to protect themselves by crafting out a rhetoric which absolves them from any wrong going thus making it all the employees fault. HR then proceeds to do the unimaginable — take out the employee who raised the issue. Whistleblowing rarely works out in the favour of the victim. Those of us who have worked long enough know that the only priority of HR is to protect the firm. They do not care about the narrative of the victim, their aim is to ensure that the company is protected. HR is indeed a risk management function.

When an employee is bullied they bring it up to HR, the first instinct is to give the employee a false sense of assurance. HR then goes about finding out more information and then does nothing! They tell the employee that they can raise a official complain if they wish and can arrange a moderation session. Most will opt for neither option as it basically puts them out there with no air-cover. This typical HR response illustrates how the employee is victimized, then marginalized and all the forces of power in the company are working together to ensure that a plan of action is put in to get the employee out of the company as soon as possible.

This is not fiction. Think of every time you have heard of someone getting bullied, harassed or discriminated. You can probably count in one hand in your entire career if the underdog won. If your ever in this situation where you are in such a toxic environment the best thing to do for your own mental health and longevity is to leave the company and see if you can broker a amicable deal where you resign and get a full severance pay. This would be ideal and not possible for many of us. Whatever you do, do not sign any document which restricts you from taking any further legal action.

I know this might sound like a cop out, live to fight another day if you must. Get out of that place first, give your self some time to heal, recharge and then figure out the course of action which will bring you happiness. These events are heartbreaking and can deeply impact the way you will look at work. You will also have to come to terms with the fact that other other co-workers did not side with you and were not willing to go on record. Everyone has their priorities, that’s life. Remember it takes courage to walk away from abuse. Every time a door closes a new one will open. There are enough opportunities out there for the brave ones. Go on take back your life.

This post was inspired after seeing this post in the Sydney Morning Herald.

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