Evaluate the situation, confront and carefully escalate if you’re in a situation the 2016 Democratic nominee describes in her new book
Even America’s most prominent female politician says she had to deal with workplace harassment.
In an excerpt from her upcoming campaign memoir “What Happened,” Hillary Clinton reveals her inner thoughts during last year’s second presidential debate in St. Louis, Mo. That fiery encounter between the Democratic nominee and her Republican rival, Donald Trump, was notable partly because of how closely Trump was hovering around Clinton while she was speaking. It inspired its fair share of memes and in excerpts just released to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Clinton called it one of the most difficult times she’s had.
“Do you stay calm, keep smiling and carry on as if he weren’t repeatedly invading your space?” the former Secretary of State wonders in the book, slated for release September 12. “Or do you turn, look him in the eye and say loudly and clearly: ‘Back up you creep, get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women, but you can’t intimidate me.’”
This isn’t the first time Clinton has spoken about what she feels is an attempt at bullying her. “He was really trying to dominate and then literally stalk me around the stage and I would just feel this presence behind me and I thought ‘Whoa, this is really weird,’” she told Ellen DeGeneres last year.
What the first woman to clinch a major party nomination describes is something that’s hardly unfamiliar with American workers. According to a 2014 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 27% of respondents report being, or having been, the victim of abusive conduct at work. Over two-thirds of Americans say they’re aware of bullying in the office.
So what does one do? First, careers experts recommend first taking a deep breath and then evaluating the situation. In certain cases, it may be gentle ribbing that’s just part of everyday life. In less severe cases, “if you’re being kidded by your boss, it means he or she likes you,” says Debra Benton, a management coach. “If you’re being bullied by peers, they see you as a threat.”
That said, if things are more serious than you can take, you should probably confront the bully.
The thing to do is to pull the person aside and have a calm conversation. “There’s no need to threaten. Just say, ‘this is what you’ve been doing, don’t do it anymore,’” says the co-author of “The Leadership Mind Switch.” Some may have memories of confrontation not working when they were 8 and being bullied on the playground, but speaking out as an adult is a whole different matter.
If things don’t get better, it may be worth escalating the issue to someone higher up the food chain. Benton acknowledges that there’s a risk of looking weak if you do so, but says that it’s something that can be resolved by explaining that you’ve already tried to handle the situation. You can even invite your tormentor along so that it doesn’t seem you’re afraid to look them in the eye.
She also recommends couching your complaint as a request for advice rather than a plea for help. “Ask your boss how they’ve handled this situation in the past,” she says. “You’re not having them solve the situation but getting advice. It’s much classier than ‘he’s being mean to me.’”
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