Guest post by Peter J. Dean, co-author with Molly D. Shepard, of The Bully-Proof Workplace: Essential Strategies, Tips, and Scripts for Dealing with the Office Sociopath.

While there are yet no general civility or anti-bullying laws in place at the federal or state level, companies are going to have to handle bullying in the workplace with their own guidelines or codes of business ethics stemming from a general policy statement.

A Sample Policy Statement for a Bully-Proof Workplace

With a policy statement like the one below in place any employee who is being bullied repeatedly has the necessary company support to deal with bullying themselves.

“Where all people, regardless of race, gender, background, belief system, or position in the company, are treated with respect, dignity and civility. Any type of bullying, that demeans, diminishes, defames or belittles a person either through rumor, lies, devious and selfish acts, unilaterally boastful comments about self and derogatory comments about others, antisocial or aggressive behavior or any acts that create a hostile work environment for a person or persons who have been repeatedly targeted in a consistent manner, will not be tolerated.”

Suggestions to Help Create a Bully-Free Workplace

The first and most logical person to discuss being bullied with is your boss. But if your boss is the bully, then this may not be the most practical first step. You also need to consider whether your boss favors the individual who is bullying you, if so, he or she may not be able to be objective—and you’ll want to consider other options for getting help.

If you think your boss can be impartial, you need to figure out whether or not he or she is aware of the bullying behavior and the impact it is having on you. Set up a time to meet with your boss when you know you will have his or her full attention. There are several important steps to the conversation:

  1. Assure the boss of your loyalty to her and the company. You might express how much you value your work, what you have learned and hope to learn from her and your colleagues and your general satisfaction with the job. (This will set the boss at ease knowing that you aren’t a flight risk and make it easier for him or her to listen and support the conversation).
  2. State that recently you’ve found yourself the subject of some bullying. Indicate that you are finding it difficult to get your work done and stay positive. Communicate that you have analyzed the situation–and you have met with the bully and expressed your feelings about it but the behavior has not changed.
  3. Ask for advice on how best to handle the situation. See if there is information that you may not have that will give you a better background. If you have done something and bullying came about because of it, then indicate that you would like to remedy it. If the bully is under pressure that you were unaware of and is taking it out on you, then ask for advice on tactics to better handle it in the moment.
  4. Listen in a non-defensive way to the feedback and advice. Then determine whether the bullying is being caused by events out of your control, or if there is something you can do to address the situation. If so, ask for ideas that might be helpful to either tolerate the behavior or confront it.
  5.  Conclude the meeting with the assurance that you enjoy your job. Let your boss know that you wish to remain as productive as possible. Ask, if it is ok, if you can check in from time to time to get feedback and further assistance, if necessary.

Peter J. Dean MS PhD and Molly D. Shepard MS MSM are partners in the Leaders Edge/Leaders By Design a leadership development and executive coaching firm that is dedicated to helping C-suite executive and high-potential leaders enhance their skills including the ability to embrace understand and leverage the complexities inherent in the modern workforce. The company’s coaching protocols are based on research that they conduct on a regular basis.