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Ten Self-Defense Tips for Bullied Employees

If you find yourself the target of a bullying boss, there are definite dos and don'ts in terms of how you should proceed. The most time-consuming aspect--and the one that's the most difficult and involved--is documenting the patterns of abuse and building and nurturing allies and supporters. You can find helpful advise and more detailed strategy information at

Nevertheless, here are the basic strategies that will point you in the right direction.

1. Approach your bullying problem like a work project. Be methodical in how you behave, perform, document, and strategize. Take notes after an incident. Try to stay unemotional. Even though he or she is trying to make you think the opposite, it is the bully who has a serious personal and professional problem, not you.

2. Be a workplace warrior as you look for other work. Even as you put feelers out for other jobs, dedicate yourself wholeheartedly to vanquishing your abuser, not being a victim.

3. Sweat the small stuff. Document even the smallest incidents, which often become the most important, illustrating a pattern of bullying that might not otherwise be apparent. Teasing counts. Sarcasm counts. Ignoring or criticism counts. A very public glare or silent treatment counts.

4. Don't let yourself get isolated. Every day, pick out someone you haven't talked to for a while. Have a brief but focused, attentive conversation. Bullies work hard to alienate targets from their coworkers. Don't let that happen to you.

5. Display self-esteem and broadcast positive attitude. Pay attention to how your appearance--such as hair and clothes--is perceived by others. Have a comfy chair in your office for coworkers. Put fresh flowers on your desk. Decorate with tasteful art that will be pleasing to others. Make your personal space an oasis of calm and taste.

6. Try to stay in safe spots. Your abuser is less likely to attack when you are around other supervisors, known allies, particularly upright employees, and customers or other outsiders of importance to the employer. Make a list of those people and places.

7. During a bullying situation, excuse yourself. Don't beat a hasty retreat, and don't leave the building. Tell your abuser that you're late for an appointment with HR, for example. Or casually excuse yourself to the restroom. Never enter the restroom if you are being pursued by a bully.

8. During an attack, try distracting your abuser. Pick up something physical--as long at it's not a threatening item--such as a critical file that needs the bully's attention or a note with an important phone number that needs to be called. Sometimes a simple distraction is enough to get him or her to stop.

9. Protect your personal information. Tell bullies as little as possible about your life, family, friends, hobbies, interests, religion, and so on. Information about you gives them power.

10. Hold your cards close to the vest. As you're building a case against a bully boss, the less you talk about your story to others at work, the better. Controlling what you say, when you say it, and to whom needs to be part of your overall, well-organized strategy.

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