Generally speaking, we all like to think that bullying is something that ends once we leave school, and that all “grown-up” dealings in the wide and wonderful world follow high standards of fair play, ethical behaviour, restraint, and tact.

While it’s certainly true that the “grown-up world” features all of these positive traits, as a rule, to a significantly greater degree than the average high school will, it would unfortunately be more than a tad naïve to think that workplace bullying and mistreatment don’t exist.

Sometimes, it’s inevitably the case that you’re going to end up encountering aggressive and unreasonable colleagues, pedantic and irresponsible managers and bosses, and all the rest.

Of course, you by no means have to put up with this without pushing back and striving to manoeuvre circumstances in a direction that’s more favourable to you.

In fact, if you don’t do so, you might just be encouraging the bullies, manipulators, and so on, to continue their misbehaviour.

Here are a few things that you should consider doing if you feel you’re being unfairly treated at work.

Look into getting legal representation

Certain types of workplace maltreatment are the sorts of everyday things that you can handle with a blunt conversation, or by getting your head down and focusing on your job. But some forms of workplace maltreatment are far more serious, and require a far more serious response.

If you’ve found yourself subject to losing your job, unfairly, and are going to be in a terrible financial situation as a result, or if you’ve been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, assault, or other such transgressions, you should look into getting legal representation and pursuing the case in court.

These days, labour and employment law firms such as Ogletree Deakins are easy to locate online, and often have branches that are accessible from a wide range of different locations.

At the very least, consider having a consultation with a legal professional if you feel that your employers or colleagues have really crossed the line in some fundamental regard.

Have those necessary (but balanced) confrontations

A lot of people are highly conflict-averse, meaning that they’ll go to extraordinary lengths to try and avoid any form of conflict or unpleasant confrontation.

This is not a good thing. While you certainly shouldn’t have an overly aggressive and prickly attitude, or pick fights which are not warranted, confrontation is often necessary in order to right wrongs, defend yourself, advance your own interests, and prevent yourself from being walked all over.

In fact, the personality trait known as “agreeableness” negatively predicts workplace income, specifically because people who are more “agreeable” shy away from the necessary confrontations that help them to advance their careers and land promotions and pay rises.

If you’re fundamentally unhappy with things that are happening in your workplace – specifically, things are happening to you – have those necessary confrontations. But, have them in a balanced way, and try and keep your cool. Screaming insults and expletives is never a productive course of action in a professional setting, or most other places either.

Begin working on your exit strategy

If there are things about your job that you fundamentally can’t get on board with, and you feel that the office culture is toxic from top to bottom, it may well be the case that there is no particular single instance that is grievous enough to warrant a court case. But it may also be the case that no interpersonal confrontation is going to resolve the overall mismatch of personalities.

In these cases, your best bet is often to begin working on your exit strategy, and to then jump ship as soon as you have a better option.

At the very least, you can request a transfer within the company to a different department, or a different branch, as a potential solution.

Just keep in mind that company cultures tend to be pretty entrenched, so you shouldn’t expect miracles to happen.

Suck it up and move on

This is an option that people all too often turn to when it would be far more appropriate to take proactive steps to change the situation, or to confront the people treating them unfairly.

In some instances, however, your frustrations at your colleagues may not have much if anything to do with their misbehaviour, but may rather be a reflection of your unreasonable expectations, and your own prickly personality traits

Ask yourself, earnestly, if you’re potentially being unreasonable. If so, accepting personal accountability, “sucking it up,” and moving on may be worth a try.


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