Worse Than Lumbergh?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Written by Samartha Gamble

Dear Sammy:

I have for months now been a witness to workplace bullying of a colleague of mine by our office manager. This colleague is a good and dedicated employee, so I feel terrible about his discomfort and the way that he has to carry around an immense amount of guilt for not doing anything. The thing that really gets me, Sammy, is this 35-year-old colleague doesn’t do anything to defend himself and relies more often on outsourcing support from other office staff instead of commanding respect. Although I feel great sorrow for him, we are a small company of 7 employees without a union or HR department to intervene. The owner of the company retired 1 month ago and left his son-in-law to manage things, but he has not been much of an example for us, as he is contributing to this conflict that is destroying the morale that we once had. After reading a few articles on whistleblowers, I feel more guilt for not getting involved so it seems that it is left up to me to do something, since I have worked here the longest. Sammy, can you help my conscience, it is truly in turmoil over this.

  • Weighed Down

Dear Weighed Down:

Whistleblowing is by no means the only option here. If you feel that your colleague is a victim of workplace bullying, then by all means, some action ought to be taken to bring the matter to the proper authorities. I’m just not sure that you should be the one to bring the matter directly to anyone’s attention though. That being said, more often than not, articles written about what to do about workplace bullying, tend to encourage reporting the situation to the authorities as the primary solution. What some of these articles neglect to tell you though is the potential emotional and economic backlash that can follow such a noble gesture. While I join you in empathy for this co-worker; this is absolutely not your problem.

After all, he is a grown man; he should not expect you and the other office staff to risk their job security to bring light to his plight. Instead of whistleblowing, you may want to encourage this co-worker to get the courage to stand up for himself and face whatever consequences arise—even job loss. While he may feel that moving on may seem an admission of defeat and a victory for his tormenting manager, convince him of the fact that it is the manager who will suffer the defeat of not having the power to continue bullying him each and every day.

If your conscience won’t permit you to let this rest, then do something with minimal risks to yourself, such as typing an anonymous letter to the owner, preferably with a caring tone that is focused on enlightening him to the emotional and economic cost that this office bullying is having on his company’s productivity and profitability. Hope all goes well and continue believing in your goodness and always keep in mind that every battle that presents itself in our lives isn’t always ours to engage in.

  • Sammy
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