Photo by Corey Seeman via Flickr
The Workplace Bullying Institute has a wealth of resources online for anyone interested in studying the phenomenon of workplace bullying, or advocating on behalf of victims.
And we need to advocate for them. Because people who are currently in the process of being bullied at work are suffering on so many levels, it's not realistic to ask them to fight back right then and there.
Just like when someone is getting beat up at home, you don't tell them to put up their dukes while they are still in the same home as the abuser. And under their control.
WBI notes that there are three parallels between workplace bullying and domestic violence:
1. The motive is control and domination, and nothing else. It's not about work, it's not about love. It is about treating a human being like a plaything, a thing. Dehumanization.
2. Surrounding parties tend to stay away from the situation, especially if they don't personally see anything that can be directly and exactly classified as abuse. Not my business, they can handle it, she or he couldn't possibly do that or allow themselves to be treated that way.
3. The surrounding institutions (workplace, police) avoid responsibility if they can. They say there's nothing we can do, it's up to the victim to report it, etc.
Workplace bullying exacts a devastating toll on people. I've been bullied at work, and it killed my self esteem for a long time. It was horrible. But like most things in life, it's a very complicated animal and simply "going after" the perpetrator doesn't get you anywhere. Unless they did something absolutely visible and insane, the system will most likely cover for them; it will not advocate for you.
And while we're talking about this, let's blow up that stereotype that abusers are men, and victims are women; either gender can play either role.
I do think we should get the bullies out of the workplace, just like they shouldn't be at home. But the most important thing is that the victims of these sadists survive -- professionally and personally -- long enough to fight back later on.
* All opinions my own.