What Should I Do When Bullied by Someone Higher Up?

Carolyn Buppert, NP, JD

Disclosures

January 11, 2011

Question:

How should I proceed when the person who is bullying me is above me in my chain of command and I'm not getting support from my supervisor?

Response from Carolyn Buppert, NP, JD
Attorney, Law Office of Carolyn Buppert, PC, Bethesda, Maryland

Editor's Note: This question is a follow-up to a previous Ask the Expert: Legal and Professional Issues question, "Can I Sue if I Am Bullied at Work?"

In response to an earlier question about whether a nurse can sue if bullied at work, I wrote that nurses should follow their chain of command when dealing with a bully. Subsequently, readers have asked what they should do if the bully is a person above them in the chain of command and they are not receiving any support from their immediate supervisors.

Unfortunately, there are no good remedies for the bullied individual at this point. I am assuming that you have already attempted to discuss the conflict directly with the person you think is doing the bullying and tried to work out a solution at that level. If that has failed and if the bully is someone who is above you in the corporate structure (and above your supervisor), then you need to go even higher in the corporate chain to discuss the problem. Chances are that the higher administrator will support the staff closest to him or her, at least in the short run. But you never know. One always hopes that truth will prevail, and it is possible that similar complaints about this person have been made in the past.

If I found myself in this situation, I would make an appointment with an administrator higher than the offending administrator and calmly present the situation. I also would be looking very seriously for a new job. I understand that all of this is difficult, but it may be less stressful to leave and get another job.

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