Knowing your level of tolerance for responding (or failing to respond) to bullying behavior where you work is important. For example, when you tell someone about your experiences, they are likely to have strong opinions about what you should do to resolve the issue. Their advice, however, may be counter-productive given your personal risk profile.
Review the discussion below and think about where you fall in terms of your own personality when it comes to risk-taking. Are you someone who will avoid confrontation at all costs? Are you, perhaps, willing to act even when there is some (or a lot of) risk involved? And what actions would you take if you are willing to act? Your ability to take risks—sometimes serious risks that could cost you your job, your reputation, your self-respect—are critically important for you to assess.
Consider your own customary behavior as described in the four personal styles described below:
If you are a Risk-Averse person, you will not confront--in fact, you may not even acknowledge your own discomfort when being bullied. A truly Risk-Averse person will remain passive, refusing to take any action other than enduring—or simply leaving their job altogether. If you have a Risk-Averse personality, confronting or otherwise arguing with a bully is unthinkable. Capitulation seems the better part of valor even if you know, at some subconscious level, that you might prevail if you acted instead of withdrawing.. You simply cannot bear to be involved in an altercation of any kind. As a bullying target, you will go to any lengths, from ignoring the behavior to quitting your job, but you will not report your experience internally nor would you consult a lawyer.
As a Cautious Risk-Taker, you will react in some fashion if distressed enough. Still, you are likely to hesitate about direct confrontation with the bully. Instead, you will arrive at work earlier in the morning in order to avoid him/her. You will go to the restroom when the bully appears and will otherwise stay as far away from the him/her as possible. However, if the bully is your boss, a co-worker who sits next to you, or someone you simply cannot avoid, you may, very reluctantly, consider taking some kind of action. Unable to speak to the bully directly, you are more likely to seek advice from a trusted friend, and, only if you are desperate enough, will you talk to someone in Human Resources about a possible transfer to another department. You will quit if your anxiety level rises to a point where you cannot stay with the organization any longer.
The Confident Risk-Taker will not endure bullying. Although you may tolerate someone who is, in your opinion, irritating or merely annoyingly sophomoric, e.g., Harry the Hugger, the Confident Risk-Taker is familiar with the organization’s Policies and Procedure and their Zero Tolerance Policy. Before filing a formal complaint, you are likely to talk with the bully, letting him/her know that their behavior is unwelcome; you may tell the bully how you feel directly or you may decide to put your feelings in writing by sending an email, detailing the unwelcome behavior you want stopped. You are focused on your right to come to work without having to deal with bullying and will not hesitate to report the behavior as long as you know that the organization has supported others when they filed complaints under similar circumstances. If the organization has a dismal record in this area, as a Confident Risk-Taker, you will contact a Federal or State agency. If you are dissatisfied with the internal response you will weigh your options about staying or leaving the organization.
Ultimate Risk Taker
As an Ultimate Risk-Taker, you may not perceive your swift and decisive reaction to the bully as a risk at all, but rather as the only reasonable way to respond to the behavior you consider objectionable. For you there is a clear line between what is appropriate and what is inappropriate in the workplace and you will not tolerate the latter. In fact, you may appear to others fearless in telling the bully exactly what behavior(s) you consider to be unprofessional and expect that s/he will act accordingly. If the behavior ends, this is likely to be the end of the conversation. On the other hand, if the bully continues the behavior, as an Ultimate Risk-Taker, you will either report him/her to Human Resources, to another organizational authority, or speak with your attorney.
Please note that that your profile may be on the cusp between two kinds of Risk-Takers. Consider, for example, that you may be a cautious person, normally loathe to react assertively under ordinary circumstances. However, when confronted by an especially malicious bully, you may find yourself disturbed enough to move out of your comfort zone and take on the bully as if you were an Ultimate Risk-Taker.
Intelligent risk-taking, based on your coping skills and your personal style is key. Always consider the upside as well as the downside of taking a risk. Whatever your profile, you must be true to your own personality. No one should ever have to endure troubling behavior when they come to work. If you do find yourself in such a position, analyze the situation carefully so that your behavior affords you the comfort level you deserve.