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'Workplace bullying' can cause serious workplace complications

We have all had bosses we didn't like over our careers. Maybe their work ethic bothered you; maybe their decisions caused you to do work over or completely hit the reset button on a project; or maybe it was just a case of the two of you not clicking, where your boss' personality simply did not mesh with yours. These things happen; and while they are far from ideal, the important thing is that the employee and boss remain cordial and work through these issues for the betterment of both themselves and the company.

However, there are times where this employee-supervisor relationship is far more strenuous than a simple lack of connection between the two employees. Instead, the supervisor's derisory conduct causes an employee to become upset or stressed out; and that employee may fear bringing up the "workplace bullying" he or she is experiencing for fear the issue will be ignored or, worse, that they will suffer retaliation.

The first thing to know is that your employer cannot retaliate against you simply because you go to your human resources department to discuss a legitimate complaint that you have. If they do, they have breached your rights as an employee and you could file a civil lawsuit against them.

Likely, that is not what you want to go through -- so how can you properly address the situation?

The first step is calmly talking things out with your supervisor to try and get ahead of the situation and diffuse it. Your supervisor may not even be aware that his or her comments are causing you such consternation.

If this does not work, you should do a few things. First, start a log with details on how, when and where your supervisor "bullies" you. Then review your company's policy regarding proper conduct. Take your complaint to HR, and hopefully this will resolve the situation. Ultimately, if it does not work, consult an experienced attorney well-versed in employment law.

Source: Associated Press, "Tips for dealing with workplace bullying," March 1, 2013

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