Tami Marler

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory,
forever and ever.

We each interpret scripture in our own way. I believe that’s what God intended.

Many people interpret the line in The Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” literally, as a plea for physical sustenance so we don’t starve to death. But I’ve always interpreted the line to encompass the myriad ways we feed ourselves – our bodies, our minds, and our souls.

My fervent prayer is for God to use whatever gifts or experience He’s given me to glorify Him. I pray that others might find His light in me. 

These passages reflect my quest for daily bread. I hope my journey inspires you to find and share your light.

The first thing you need to know is that you are not alone, you are not crazy, and you are not doing anything to deserve the abuse you suffer. More than 19 percent of American workers are victims of workplace bullying, and 62 percent of new employees who leave their job within the first year, do so because of a hostile work environment that fails to protect them.

Bullies select their targets because they feel threatened by them – their skills, their likability, their moral compass and agreeable nature. In a Workplace Bullying Institute survey, bullying targets described themselves as kind, altruistic, generous, and in 22 percent of cases, as not likely to defend themselves. If that describes you, it may be time to make some changes.

While you did nothing to deserve being destroyed by a bully, you may be able to do some things to protect yourself. It’s always healthy to take a fearless and searching moral inventory of ourselves and our motives, so do search yourself for ways you can improve and avoid future pitfalls. Are you too trusting? Do you share too much, too early? Are you easily hurt by betrayal? Do you have high expectations of yourself and others?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you already know what to do to harden your shell. Now let’s get down to some practical ways to survive your workplace bully.

Don't give up hope

When you look at the reality of workplace bullying in America, it’s easy for victims to lose hope. While it’s true that less than 2 percent of victims are vindicated and protected after reporting abuse, someone has to comprise that group. It might as well be you!

As someone who has been around the bully block more than my fair share, I can share some of the things that helped, and steer you away from the things that hurt.

Record everything

Before you get excited about the idea of recording, make sure it’s legal in your state. In some states, it is legal for one party to record without notifying other parties. In others, it is not.

I find it amusing when other “experts” recommend you confront the bully head-on, as most employee manuals dictate. While I believe wholeheartedly in directly and professionally working out differences with co-workers, bullies are filthy players.

As I write in my book, Beauty to the Rescue, bullies are obsessed with their image, so they do not like to be called on their bovine excrement. They will do or say absolutely anything to obfuscate, lie, cover up, or “clarify” their poor behavior in order to preserve their image.

So, for example, when you calmly and professionally confide to the bully that it’s hurtful when she makes blanket insults about other professional women in your age group and industry, she will feign shock and heartache.

She will gasp and say, “I didn’t mean you! Have you seen them? They’re hideous! (As if that helps.) You look great for your age! I  would never say that about you!”

Or, for example, when you approach a bully who incessantly tattles to superiors in hopes they will lose faith in you, to ask – politely, calmly and professionally – if she would mind addressing her concerns about you directly, rather than with others, she will feign shock and incredulity. She will justify and explain and deny. She may even cry.

In each case, the lies, explanations and excuses will go on and on, and then the bully will vow to never act in such an insensitive way again.

Winning, right? Wrong.

That’s when the bully will rush to your superiors and wail about being harassed and intimidated. Attacked! Blind-sided! She may even be able to tremble and work up some crocodile tears. It’s even better when she can get one of many co-bullies to nod sincerely as she comforts the bully through her emotional disclosure. 

Suddenly, guess who’s the bully? That’s right. You are. Especially if you are a woman, the direct approach can be perceived as too aggressive, unseemly, cat-fight-y. 

That is why I recommend you never, ever speak with the bully or her cohorts without a recorder. In fact, I recommend recording every encounter with every co-worker and boss.

Recordings tend to keep people honest. Co-workers may be willing to start out lying about you, but they very quickly change their tune when they know they’ve been recorded. No one likes to be caught looking like a liar, and it sure is fun watching a witness dig herself into a hole on the stand, then squirm and quake as your attorney begins reciting direct quotes that contradict her little narrative.

Even if you never use them to defend yourself, recordings allow you to critique your own attitude and make necessary adjustments. Recordings helped me to accurately recall conversations and events. Most importantly for me, they allowed trusted advisors to offer an objective ear.

When my family listened to the recordings, their shock and disgust in the way I was treated helped me to realize for the first time, I was not at fault. I could not have done anything to avoid the abuse I suffered. These people presented themselves as vile, unprofessional juveniles who had no business holding positions of power over others. 

If you’re unable to use a recorder, memorialize the incident in some other permanent way – send yourself a detailed email, keep notes in your phone, write it down if you have to. I got to where I kept my data in a spreadsheet, which make it easier to search and organize if you ever go to court. Make sure each entry includes dates, times and potential witnesses.

Find someone you trust

I cannot stress enough, be very cautious about whom you trust at work. There is a reason workplaces are allowed to remain toxic – and it ain’t because of the victims.

The decay around the bully may be immediately obvious, but remember that 74 percent of bullies recruit accomplices from among your co-workers. Studies show 35 percent of bystanders will offer only advice or moral support, while 31 percent of co-workers intentionally isolate the victim, 16 percent stand by and do nothing at all, 15 percent flat out betray the victim, and 13 percent play both sides of the fence – pretending to support the victim while reporting to the bully. Can you tell which co-workers will follow which patterns?

In my experience, as tired as the victim gets of being pummeled day in and day out, of powering through the gnawing in their gut every Sunday night in anticipation of the bully’s next surprise, co-workers grow even more weary from the constant blood bath. They just want it to end, and the path of least resistance is the one where they’re not the next target. When push comes to shove, even the most supportive co-worker wants to keep his job.

Bullying victims report being treated fairly in investigations less than 2 percent of the time. Once an official investigations begin, and leaders make clear the direction they intend to go… I hate to compare them to rats on a sinking ship, but you get the picture. 


The important thing is that you find someone you can talk to. More than 71 percent of bullying victims suffer physical effects that require medical treatment. More than 63 percent suffer psychological effects that require mental health care.

You cannot go through this alone, so reach out to a sympathetic and objective person you can trust for support. Once they start questioning what you did to deserve it, make them read this page before you confide in them again.

Following company policy

Policy One: Direct Approach

Most companies have policies on bullying as part of discrimination harassment, but not all bullying is discrimination in the legal sense of the term; which means most victims technically have no protection. If you don’t fit in to a protected class, you’re fair game in the eyes of the law. And companies know it.

Policy Two: Tell the Boss

Most companies’ conflict resolution policies recommend reporting conflict to your immediate supervisor if the direct approach fails. We’ve already discussed where the direct leads in the majority of cases – to the target being accused of intimidating and harassing the poor bully, who, as it turns out, feels assaulted when called out for their bovine excrement. Even after confronted, 93 percent of bullies go right back to their shenanigans.

Reporting to bosses turns out even worse for most targets. If the complaint is not ignored (54 percent), the victim is disbelieved (90 percent), or retaliated against (71 percent), resulting in the target losing employment a third of the time.

If you decide to follow policy and report to your supervisor, check the laws in your state to ensure you can legally record all conversations.

If You Decide to Report

Women, in particular, must be especially careful not to appear emotional or angry when communicating abuse to superiors. Present only your well-documented facts, including dates, times and possible witnesses, but do not reveal if you have recordings. Hold that Ace in the Hole until it benefits you most. If your manager winds up like 90 percent of her contemporaries, the last thing you want is her knowing all the defenses in your arsenal.

Policy Three: Go Higher

Most employee manuals recommend going to your superior’s superior if you fail to get results. That may mean your organization’s human resource department. Think about the relevance or effectiveness of a human resource department over a toxic work environment. Think about all the mechanisms that must be broken to allow and encourage a toxic work environment, then think about the wisdom of seeking their aid.

Well, maybe they don’t know.

Maybe my abuse is worse than anything they’ve heard.

Surely they would be disgusted to know this, this and this policy is being flagrantly violated.

Thoughts like these may be racing through your mind as you debate whether to go over your boss’ head for relief. Before you make a decision, ask yourself these questions: Do your co-workers complain that this type of behavior has gone on for too long? Do they say the bully always gets away with it? Were you hired to help turn around a toxic environment? If the answers to any of these questions are yes, then your human resource department is well aware of the problem and has done nothing to address it to this point. How much faith do you have that this time, they’ll do the right thing? 

When I went to HR for help, the exasperated, under-trained and over-promoted human resource manager told me, if it was up to him, he would fire both me and the bully I was reporting because he felt like he was being forced to deal with his children, and he resented being dragged into the middle of a “cat fight.”

There was so much wrong with his response, you’ll have to read about it in my book, Beauty to the Rescue; but the “cat fight” mentality is the type of sexist ignorance that contributes to rampant workplace bullying. Assuming any conflict between women must be a catty and juvenile dispute that each party chooses, is like assuming the victims of violent crimes do something to deserve being attacked.

While bullies may wake in the morning obsessed with their targets; most unwitting victims are too focused on achieving success to notice the bully’s petty machinations, until it’s far too late.

When the Employer Fails You

The sad reality is, if you’re like more than 95 percent of victims who follow company procedure and report your abuse, you will not be happy with the way your employer handles your concerns. That’s not coming from one disgruntled cat fighter. That’s coming from the Workplace Bullying Institute, which has surveyed thousands of victims and conducted volumes of research through the years and found that bullies nearly always win.

Businesses that fail to prioritize the emotional well being of their employees are ill prepared for the scheming and manipulation of workplace bullies, so you’re faced with the impossible decision of whether to trust your employer and its policies, or start planning a graceful escape.

You’ve probably heard the advice: Never leave a job unless you have something else lined up. It’s always easier to find a job if you’re already employed, and you don’t want to be in a desperate position where you have to settle for whatever is available. Then, you’ll be right back in the same boat.

Calm, Cool, Collected… Goodbye

I was usually pretty successful at lining up something new before I escaped a toxic work environment. But those times when my grace ran out before my luck kicked in left permanent scars on my soul.

You can’t imagine the helplessness and utter despair of knowing that the bullies have won, and it’s just a matter of creating a paper trail that leads to your doom. You can literally feel the sands running out of the hourglass.

You’ve done everything by the book, followed your employer’s policies and instructions to the letter, recorded everything for protection, treated co-workers with professionalism and respect, but each day brings a new baseless and petty allegation you must meekly and apologetically defend; because, to stand up for yourself is to engage in a cat fight. To confront liars, gossips and saboteurs, and to ask co-workers for the courtesy of professional and direct communication, is to harass and intimidate. To point out injustice is to whine and create a toxic environment.

Your stomach is in knots all the time wondering where the next dagger will come from. Your ideas and instructions are disregarded or ignored. You’re afraid to stand out for your work, so you keep your ideas to yourself. You allow co-workers to openly and flagrantly demean, disregard and disrespect you, because you’ve already been accused of engaging in cat fights when you followed company policy to address it in the past.

You’re slowly and steadily disappearing into nothing and everybody knows it – and there is not a damn thing you can do about it. 

So, what’s next? Take it from someone who has been there more times than you would believe. Be calm. Be polite. Stay below the radar. Control your emotions. And spend every productive moment networking, building your resume and moving on to a company that deserves you.

The Reality of Legal Recourse

The U.S. currently has no protections for most employees who suffer from workplace bullying. Unless you are being sexually harassed, or you fall into a protected class because of your age, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, you are fair game. And your employer knows it, but until Congress passes a law that protects all victims of workplace bullying, these are the cold, hard facts. Unless you meet certain physical criteria, you may not even pass the first hurtle of a civil rights lawsuit.

Even if you do fall into a protected class, a civil rights lawsuit is a long, painful process in which – no matter how innocent you are – you will be made to appear unreliable, unskilled, evil, hard to like, hard to get along with… The very same employees who stand by and watch as you suffer and wither to nothing will happily jaunt to the witness stand to testify to all the things you did to deserve your plight.

You may start out so angry, you don’t care how much it hurts. How can a lawsuit be any worse than what they’ve already done to you? At least you’re standing up for what’s right! But once the sting wears off, how much longer do you want these people in your brain? How much longer can you go with your stomach in knots, worrying about what they will do to harm you? 

But if you have detailed documentation of your suffering, if you can lock co-workers in to truthful testimony with recordings of what really happened, you may be among the precious few who truly realize justice. And you deserve it. We all deserve justice.

So, for all of us, put on your game face, gird for battle, and go get ’em!

Coming soon...


A book about surviving workplace bullying

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RSS Latest News on Workplace Bullying in the U.S.