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Bullies in the Michigan workplace

Almost everyone has dealt with a bully sometime in life. Some Troy residents may recall a bully encounter on a playground or during school, but bullying isn't exclusive to childhood. An estimated one in seven people is bullied on the job.

The problem is so widespread lawmakers in two dozen states have drafted bills designed to curb at-work bullying. Unfortunately, despite these attempts, no states have adopted specific anti-bullying legislation.

On-the-job bullying is a form of mistreatment that may or may not violate anti-discrimination laws. A bully may threaten, verbally abuse, ignore or humiliate a co-worker or subordinate. These actions only cross the line when a target's inclusion in a protected class is the cause for bullying.

The Workplace Bullying Institute noted the effects of bullying on workers. Stress-related medical problems can include migraine headaches and a life-threatening spike in blood pressure. The constant torment also may lead to mental health problems like anxiety, depression and possible post-traumatic stress disorder.

Bullying certainly interferes with workplace performance, but it usually isn't the bully who pays the price. The bully's repeated pressure often robs a victim of focus and decision-making skills, making targeted employees less capable of doing work. Approximately 64 percent of bullied employees either quit or are fired.

Who are the bullies? Job bullies are typically managers, particularly middle managers attempting to impress higher ups or keep superiors at bay. Bullying is common in high-stress, competitive work environments where aggressive management may be valued.

Bullying targets also have profiles. They can be high performers -- perceived threats to a boss. A bullied worker is also likely to be someone who exhibits vulnerability due to intellectual, physical, emotional or social limitations.

Asserting yourself can end or spark new torment. Complaining to human resources often is an exercise in futility. Consulting with an Akeel & Valentine attorney can help determine whether legal actions are possible.

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