Bullied at Work.... What Would You Do?

Updated on April 19, 2010
I.G. asks from Seattle, WA
20 answers

Not really a mom question, but I could use some input...
I am in a situation with a co worker for a year now. The person will not speak to me until it is unavoidable, does not voluntarily share information, has been talking bad about me to other staff, even spreading rumors about me at work. This happened after I blew the whistle on this person for treating clients in an unprofessional way and generally behaving in an unprofessional manner around the office. The person has been reprimanded, even suspended without pay for a while, but due to union issues, was not fired.
The behavior with clients has improved, but I am still the scapegoat and the attitude towards me has not changed.
I really used to like my job, but it is starting to wear me down.
I have complaints running with HR and Management and I do feel like they are supportive, but they are telling me that other than what has been done their hands are tied.
I am hoping to go back to school next year, so I was just trying to "lay low" and get into as little trouble with this person as possible, but our responsibilities overlap and it has come to a point where I hate coming to work every day.
My family depends on my job right now (hubby is in school and our insurance is through my work) so I can't just quit.

What would you do? I am wondering whether I should talk to a union representative and complain with my union (HR and my boss are in agreement that it is a hostile work environment) or even a lawyer? I really don't want to make things worse, but it cannot go on like this either. I just feel so powerless...

BTW, my other coworkers have experienced similar things with this person at one time or another, but no one will speak up, because this person is a senior staff member... so I do not count on help from them.

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So What Happened?

Thank you everyone for your support and suggestions. My boss has already spent thousands of $$$ for mediators to come in and help with this, but this person flat out refuses to cooperate (I have also approached them one-on-one in a safe setting, but still).
We are both unionized and every time there is disciplinary action taken against this person, the union represents this employee... since every union member has a right to union representation in disciplinary hearings.
I think I will talk to a union representative next and see what MY rights are in this.

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answers from Stockton on

Go to the union. HR can't do much when there is a union involved. That's what you pay union dues for.

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answers from San Francisco on

First of all, I would NEVER be alone with the woman, ever. Always be polite. Record every incident in a log with date, time and what happened. And practice what my stepmother taught me when I was having problems with a bully in school. Whenever she says something mean just smile as big as you can and say "HEY! Have a GREAT day!", turn on your heal and walk away. Bullies know how to react to negative comments, they don't know how to react to positive ones.

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answers from Seattle on

You could talk with your union representative, but unless there is a violation of the contract, if the company, ie your boss, has ignored the hazards that have placed you in a dangerous position where you have been harmed, there is little the union can do. Even the company is limited as to what actions they can take with your co-worker. If she was suspended without pay for her previous actions, obviously they were pretty drastic. She wasn't terminated because she was placed on corrective action earlier and her behavior wasn't observed by management but by a co-worker. If the customers had made complaints and several complaints were noted, that probably accounted for the suspension. You say that she has improved but the climate is very chilly for you. Such are office politics. Even when others observe bad behaviors, when the boss takes action, the misbehaving employee goes from being a problem to being a victim, and in that case the co-worker who reported the transgression is seen as the bad guy. Do your job. Be cordial to everyone at work. Don't go out of your way to interact with this person or anyone else for that matter. Time has a way for healing wounds. Because the person was suspended she is on steps of progressive discipline. She, more than likely, has a letter in her record informing her that the next transgression will be grounds for immediate firing.

The union was there to make sure that the punishment fits the crime. That any and all extenuating circumstances were taken into consideration. That the company followed their own guidelines. You don't know what's been happening outside of the workplace that could have had a definite impact on her behavior at work. Let time heal things. Your managers are watching her and others in the group. You don't need to tell them how to do their jobs. If you feel physically threatened, by all means report this to your company's security department. But be sure to have concrete, distinct examples of the hazards and threats made to you. You're not always going to 'like' everyone at work. You're there to do a job. It's frosting on the cake when everyone can be friendly and supportive of their co-workers.

As far as engaging a lawyer..... because you have a collective bargaining agreement at your work place, (the union), you need to exhaust the grievance process before engaging a lawyer to take action against your employer. And you will need definite proof of harm to you. There are laws that address workplace bullying, and your state's department of labor would be a good place to file a complaint. This is also a grievable action. Your union can file a grievance on your behalf because of this. they don't file a grievance against the employee, but against the company for not taking appropriate actions to make sure that the bullying ceases. Again, be prepared for the reactions of your co-workers.

Take good care.

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answers from Portland on

Type out your concerns, make sure it is done professionally, tactfully & as positively as possible. Double space it put it in a folder and have those people who you know have a problem with this senior staff person look at it & write their comments on it & give it back too you. Even if they are not willing to speak up they may change their minds if they know you are serious & can change the work environment for the better. I would ask them each in turn to come to your car with you and give it back to you in the morning and you keep it in your car so the wrong eyes don't see it ask them not to bring it into work or talk about it at work. Ask them how long it will take them to read & write their comments & write that date on the paper for them to hand it back to you on that date. Tweak it after it is returned each time, this is not the time to worry about being "green". After you have gotten all the written comments back. make sure all you have written is accurate & true otherwise leave it out, then submit it to your union rep, HR & boss and ask for their formal written recommendations. Be methodical do not give this information to anyone you suspect will share this information with the wrong person, especially the senior staff person. Make sure you keep a log with dates & document everything. You might decide to keep two & let her know you are documenting her behavior because of the liability it causes the company.

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answers from Honolulu on

I really hope your are DOCUMENTING everything... before, after, and now.

So this is essentially "retaliation" that is occurring now... by this person. So, "retaliation" is now another issue that is happening... versus just calling it "personality differences." The wording... makes it a big difference, legally. So take note of what you call it... and how you "frame" the problem that is existing now/currently... and the wording you use.
you could also say the "retaliation" is causing undue mental stress, "fear" of your job, harassment etc.

There is a whistle blowers law...
but you said he is under Union issues and so was not fired. But they did reprimand him. So they did do something.

Or, pursue the problem, in another way... that this person is affecting COMPANY security/success/team work/clients and breaches in the confidentiality of the Team or staff or company... and that it is retaliatory and "Bullying"...and the person is "targeting" YOU etc. Or "singling you out" just you. These are other wording or terminology that you can use.... to your benefit....
And if this person is also "Bullying" others... well you have to use that wording too.

The thing is, if the problem is pursued as being just a personality difference... there is nothing they can do. Legally. And employment in most States is "at-will."

all the best,

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answers from Dallas on

Definantly go talk with the union. I used to work for Kroger, and they're a Union company. I had problems similar to yours and thankfully, a guy got transferred to my store who was part of union represenatives. Fixed everything for me :)

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answers from Portland on

Ugh! Sorry that youre dealing with a mean girl! I would get in a room with her and my manager (or someone like one of her peers, on staff) and have some constructive conversation about what you have seen, how it makes you feel and what you can do to have a better working relationship with her. Dont speak from the victim point of view, speak from the 'what can I do to make this better for both of us.' point of view. Anyway, hang in there.

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answers from Albuquerque on

Have you tried talking to this person. I mean come on how childish. Maybe just sit down with them and get everything out in the open. Let them know you want your working environment with them to be healthy and productive. Tell them you don't appreciate the rumors either. Maybe this person will feel better if they have someone to talk to about this situation.

I don't really know. You hope this is something that stops at high school! I'm sorry you have to deal witht this. Sometimes I think it is harder for adults to deal with because it seems so silly that someone would actually act like this.

Good luck.

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answers from Las Vegas on

Hi I., I have been through this before. The lady even hit me, but it was her word against mine. And yes the chirping ran ramped! My suggestion, document instances even when you talk to management/HR about the situation.

In my case the lady kept it up and it was finally witnessed. However, I just got pregnant and she was playing some sort of chicken to run into me in a hallway and someone stepped up and said they saw it I sent the head of HR an email and detailed everything all the way back to the beginning and said I was pregnant with a concern of losing my baby with the stress in the workplace as well potentially being knocked down by this lady. She was reprimanded and eventually she retired.

Just keep your cool and eventually this will catch up to her. Be the better person. Times are tough right now and if she acts like a jerk it will catch up to her. If I was her patient I would report her and someone will.

Best wishes.

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answers from Kansas City on

I. i feel for you. i don't have much advice because i haven't been in this particular situation, BUT i wanted to say, i am the type of person who would rather be hated for doing my job than liked for being a snarky gossip. it is tough to stand up for what you think is right (i.e. your clients, when she was not doing her job). so kudos for that. i did have a similar situation, and that's when i came up with my little "rather be hated"...mantra. i decided after months of this person bullying a lot of different people in her own subtle way, that i would report each and everything she did to me or that i saw do to someone else, until something was done. the last time she disrespected me, the VP happened to walk by just after, and i stopped her and told her flat out, there is about to be a problem between X and me. this happened. it was flat out disrespect and i'm sorry, if something isn't said to her "I" will be saying something." it got taken care of that day. she whined about how she only did "x" thing because she "knew" i would "go running" to tattle. as if that made it okay. i'm sorry, you have a responsibility to your own self respect to do something about this. not to mention how it interferes with your ability to do your job in a positive manner, thus hurting the company. i guess my "grownup" advice would be keep pursuing this until there is a paper trail a mile long. it could be they are looking for a reason to fire this person - that was the case in my situation, and i am PROUD that i had a hand in this person being terminated. and in case you are unclear - vicious gossip and catty remarks are report-worthy as well. i wouldn't say go after this person's job per se, but look out for your own tail. or. like you said. lay low till you can get the heck out of there. (is it possible to find another job to hold you over?) GOOD LUCK!

ps, i have also had a situation where i confronted a person who i found out had been talking about me behind my back, judging me about things she had no idea about...i did stop her one day and flat out asked her to stop talking about me. she got p-o'd and there was some drama (she went to the manager to 'tell on' me), but in the end i think she respected me for standing up for myself, and we are on really good terms now. it really just depends on the personality of the person you're dealing with. but from what it sounds like, this person you're dealing with is too immature and nasty to really listen to you. she'd probably just run to someone and start laughing about you behind your back.

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answers from Portland on

I've been in a very similar situation. I tried to resolve the interpersonal issues directly with the person, with our boss involved, and also with the head HR lady (multiple times). It never got better. I am not trying to dishearten you. I honestly think that sometimes people just can't change, and you can't make the situation acceptable/comfortable on your own. It requires both parties, and clearly the other person isn't on board. So, get yourself out. My situation was miserable and toxic, and it was the worst year and a half of my life.

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answers from Seattle on

I would hesitate to become always a "complainer" and always about the same person. If you go your union HR go with the attitude of what can I do to make this work place better for me (and others), rather than this person is bad, terrible, etc.

If you need this job you need to make hard choices--stick it out, talk to your HR in a constructive manner, or leave. And leaving really doesn't help you resume at this time, because you are leaving under a cloud of I could not work with this person. Not good for the resume, and jobs are hard to find now--you need the best resume possible.

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answers from Spokane on

Research harassment laws for your state. There are laws protecting you from being the "victim" but you need to know your rights. if there are rumors that can be confirmed that is a hostil work issue and that goes against your rights as an employee.

ask for a copy or your harassment policys.

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answers from Charlotte on


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answers from Minneapolis on

Absolutely - move forward with your complaints. Talk to a union representative, hire a lawyer, and complain to whoever is above your HR people. I would recommend doing all three. At the same time, cc your HR people so that they are aware that you're moving ahead with complaints. You should not have to work in an environment where you're not happy. It can cause health issues on top of just making you miserable. In addition, as others have said, make sure that you document *everything* - even going into the past. Just make sure that you note the date that you start. Your documentation is admittable evidence in court and can be used against her.

Good luck and take care of yourself!

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answers from Minneapolis on


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answers from Portland on

I think you are very brave and talking to a lawyer to get their take on it wouldn't hurt.

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answers from Portland on

I'm in a union also, but don't know the ins and outs. I do know that people can get fired even if they are in a union. As someone else mentioned, though, for many things they have to go through the grievance process. I know someone in a union here was fired for demonstrably making a represantative statement that was contrary to the organization's mission statement. If this person's actions had some violations that involve clients, perhaps it may fall under that category. Also, I don't think the person has the right to create a hostile work environment, which is kind of what the union is saying. The union needs to protect you and others from this.

There are professional work mediators that can be brought in to situations like this. I'd say that your union should be insisting that this happen, as a next step. Then, if you don't feel it's been resolved and you don't feel protected, a labor lawyer.
so sorry about this situation. hope it resolves well, in your favor.



answers from San Francisco on

You have several really excellent, concrete suggestions about how to deal with this bad situation. I am going to offer some different advice, not at all intending to mitigate any of the useful advice offered by others. Your situation needs to be dealt with externally (the reality of work, supervisors, unions, documentation, etc.) and internally.

The internal advice: Protect yourself and your family. You need this job for health care benefits. That outweighs other less important considerations. Do your job. Find a constructive method (meditation, prayer, venting, jogging, counseling, etc.) that you can use to help you personally and emotionally deal with this upsetting person so that you don't allow her/him to ravage your emotional life, while getting through this important year.


answers from Oklahoma City on

same story but with a quicker solution as a former union member myself I had the same type of problem with a co-worker but rather than going through all the changes you have explained about, I look upon this as a money making venture and just filed suit along with other co-workers that were having the same problems with the same person , the attorney called it a class action multi complaint lawsuit , this is the way i look at it (Hey it`s them or me , and it`s not going to be Me) survival of the smartest by hitting them where it hurts the most ( in their wallet) needless to say , the union reps never showed up at any of the hearings . the offender ended up working to support 20 of his fellow coworkers and ended up being very polite in the aftermath ( we don`t get mad , we get even ) when it comes to dealing with a first rate fool. paschar on saving ones job / CYOA

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