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5 things not to do regarding workplace bullying

In all of the cliches, bullying happens in middle school. The bully is the bigger kid taking the smaller kid's lunch money or the football jock picking on the kids in the band.

Cliches don't always tell the whole story, though. Bullying doesn't always end in grade school. Even as a young adult and a recent college graduate, you can be bullied in the workplace. It could even venture into the realms of sexual harassment and discrimination based on age, gender, race, or many other factors. A workplace bully can be infuriating, but here are five things you should not do when dealing with a bully:

1. Assume it's your own fault.

You have rights. You don't deserve to be assaulted, harassed or discriminated against. Never just assume you deserve it or that you did something that puts you in the wrong. Stand up for your rights.

2. Wait it out.

People are often tempted just to wait, hoping things will get better ... hoping it was a one-time incident ... hoping the bully drifts off and bothers someone else. But, again, your rights may be violated. Don't feel obligated to wait it out. One illegal incident is too many.

3. Act without documentation.

Obviously, it's sometimes best to act quickly, which may mean evidence is limited. However, it's absolutely best to document as much as you can. How many events were there? When did they happen? Exactly what took place? Who else saw it? If possible, get audio or video evidence to back up your claims.

4. Assume you're alone.

If the law has been broken - when the bully is sexually harassing you, for instance - the legal system is on your side. You're not alone. Workers often feel like they are. Maybe your boss is the bully, and maybe your co-workers are also afraid to act. Where can you turn? At times like these, remember your legal options and the power they give you.

5. Become obsessed.

Obsessions create stress. You have enough going on in your life. You don't need to sit around and obsess about what's happened or what you should do. Don't let it consume you. Just look into your options and take swift action. Be proactive. Put your energy into making things right. This is a healthy approach to the situation and it gets you closer to your end goal of putting a stop to workplace bullying.

Bullies exist in the workplace just like they did in middle school. They come in all ages and all industries. They can create a hostile workplace and even try to run you out of a job. If you're facing discrimination or harassment at the hands of a bully, it's important to know your legal options.

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