Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Victim Contemplates Possible Options

During a recent workplace bullying seminar, a young woman protested when I suggested that the victim should do a cost-benefit analysis before deciding whether (and how) to respond to objectionable behavior. This woman said she thought my advice left victims powerless. My contention is that, unless the victim belongs to that rare class of individuals who can respond to bullying with confidence, they may need to consider what the cost of speaking up might be.

In my experience, most bullying victims flounder in the face of bullying behavior for specific reasons.

Not only are bolder individuals less likely to be bullied in the first place, but if they are, their response is swift and to the point. They may stare the bully down and tell them to “Back Off” or “Disappear, you creep!” They may raise their voices. They may use sarcasm, four-letter words, a threatening manner, an authoritative tone. In all cases, these “victims” have no difficulty stating what they want—always operating on the assumption that their response will leave the bully cowering under their counter-assault.

Here is one thing primarily that such victim may have forgotten if they even considered it. And that is that bullies qua bullies may respond in unanticipated ways. Sometimes they do, indeed stop their behavior toward such a “victim.” Sometimes, however, they smirk. They may laugh aloud. Sometimes they do actually back off only to reappear on another day. Sometimes they become really hostile and then they may actually become dangerous.

My interest is always in protecting the victim whether or not they are risk-takers. For me, that protection comes in the form of contemplating the potential upside and downside of their actions. I encourage them to .think lest they act precipitously, ending up finding themselves in a position more precarious than the one they’re already in. Hence, I suggest that victims do a cost-benefit analysis.

Let’s examine this concept more closely.

The question at hand is: What will it cost the victim and what benefit might she get from direct confrontation with the bully?.

This, as with sexual harassment, is an “it depends” dilemma. Here are some of the “it depends” issues to be considered.

It depends on the:
  • victim’s risk tolerance or risk aversion
  • status of both victim and bully
  • victim’s ability to withstand potential financial and psychological consequences
  • organization’s former responses to bullying behavior.
If the victim can consider all of these affirmatively, then there are potential benefits fo acting:


The victim may feel :
  • empowered
  • proud of standing up against the bully
  • a renewed sense of self-confidence
  • that the bullying behavior will stop
  • that taking action was the right thing to do
  • confident that co-workers will support their courageous stance.

The cost may be:
  • poor performance reviews henceforth
  • loss of an expected promotion or salary increase
  • a job demotion or transfer
  • loss of the job itself
  • a reputation as a problem person among her peers
  • desertion by co-workers after the fact
  • concern about personal physical safety
  • difficulty in finding another job
  • getting satisfactory references from the current employer
  • having to get legal representation
  • the family’s concern because they count on her salary
  • depression if joblessness continues over time
  • regret about having confronted the bully too soon.

Having done a thorough cost-benefit analysis, the victim can make a decision that will feel satisfying. Acting after such an analysis is likely to suit each individual’s personality and result in a better outcome than if they had acted without careful analysis

No comments:

Post a Comment