What's your problem?

Q: I work for a small, family-run consultancy. One of my colleagues - who is also a friend - is being bullied by the MD, but she's unwilling to do anything about it. She took the job straight after university so doesn't realise that the way he treats her is not on. He's had her in tears. I tell her that she should raise it with her manager (who is also the boss's son) but she won't. Should I step in on her behalf?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

A: If this was your friend's second or third job, it would be bad enough. But first jobs have an effect all their own. When the experience is good, valuable standards are set for ever; and when the experience is bad, early, fragile confidence can be fractured for years to come. It's noble of you to think of stepping in on her behalf, but it could do more harm than good.

Bullies enjoy humiliating the vulnerable; she has got to be seen to stand up for herself. But, given the family connection, a formal complaint to her manager, however well argued, is likely to achieve nothing. She needs to stand up, person-to-person, to the managing director himself.

Please use every persuasive argument you can think of to make her see this desperately important point. Otherwise, in a month or two, permanent damage may have been done. - Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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