Many of us have been taught not to enter conflicts, to be diplomatic about any hostility, but not a lot of us were taught to stand up for ourselves when threatened. If you ever got bullied at school, you probably first tried to brush it off, and you only went to your parents or your teacher if it persisted. This is because you were afraid that the behavior will not stop and that you will antagonize the bully even more.
A similar thing happens to us as adults – we don’t always react to insults, but swallow the unpleasantness so that we don’t complicate our work lives or come across as oversensitive. However, putting up with this kind of behavior can be detrimental to our mental health, it can have a negative effect on our self-confidence, relationships with other people, and even productivity at work. The most important thing to know is that you shouldn’t keep your head down since you are not alone and that you have the power to stop this behavior.
- Inform your employer
The first door to knock on is your employer. they should be made aware that you are being discriminated against or harassed, and that among their staff they have an abusive employee. After your employers have been informed, they will probably first try to resolve it internally, so you can also expect a confrontation with that individual. Having the complaint documented will be of great value to you if the issue doesn’t stop there. In case you reach a seeming agreement, and the colleague who was abusive continues with that kind of behavior, you can complain to your employer again, but also take other measures to prevent it from continuing.
- Review the laws
It is vital to inform yourself about your rights and obligations, especially if the person harassing you is not your employee but your employer. You can find this information in public libraries and some of it is on the internet. Knowing the laws will also help you psychologically, to strengthen your determination not to let anyone abuse you in any manner since that kind of behavior is unacceptable. Also, make sure you are familiar with the anti-discrimination policies of the company you work for. In case your employer is the abuser, or if the company doesn’t want to acknowledge what happened to you, you will have firm knowledge about your rights.
- Seek legal aid
If the problematic behavior continues, it is time to take more serious steps and seek legal aid. You can consider hiring a compensation lawyer who will represent you and protect your rights. The good thing, besides the first consultation, is free, is that they usually don’t charge unless you win the claim. This is quite practical since you don’t have to worry about the expenses in advance, and that also means that the lawyer will fight hard for your claim since their payment depends on the claim’s success. Some of the personal injury specialists even offer regular updates via messages, so you will always know about the progress.
In order not to forget any detail, it’s best to write everything down. It is easy to forget the exact words that were said after a few months have passed. Also, the more detailed you are, the stronger your claim will be. Ensure that you write down everything in your diary – the location, date, approximate time, parties involved if there were any witnesses and all the details of the event that you can remember. This could prove useful in case you approach your employer, so that they are aware of all the facts, and also as a source of data to be examined by your lawyer.
- Keep everything
Any tangible item left for you, no matter how offensive can find its use. It is all evidence of the abuse and although it might make your stomach churn, it’s best for you to keep it. Collect any kind of picture, note, or a trinket left, and if you cannot take it, photograph it. Also, if you have been receiving inappropriate messages, make screenshots of those conversations. Keeping these physical reminders of disquieting events can be quite upsetting, but think of them as tools to help you get out of that situation stronger. Besides, you only need to keep them until you hand them over to your lawyer, so storing them in a box is not such a terrible notion.
Regardless of whether you got verbally abused by your colleague or your employer, and no matter how frightened and uncomfortable you might feel – you need to stand up for yourself. If that means a confrontation with the wrongdoer in front of your boss, then be it. Nobody has the right to belittle you and if a conversation doesn’t patch things up, you need to turn to the law and inform yourself about your rights as an employee and as an individual. Putting yourself into the capable hands of lawyers might be a good idea especially since you have nothing to lose from the financial aspect. Regardless of the option you choose, the important thing is to know that you don’t have to put up with anything.
Credit: Chantal Bechervaise