Dealing with a Workplace Bully

You might be thinking that bullying is something children deal with at school or in their communities.

That’s true, but it’s also true that bullying in the workplace is a common occurrence in some companies.

Think about these behaviors: name-calling, practical jokes, spreading malicious lies, unwanted physical contact, making verbal threats, or aggressive behavior.

These are all forms of bullying, and you may have experienced or witnessed those behaviors in your workplace to the extent that your mental and physical health is affected.

Organizations recognize bullying in the workplace to the extent that policies are in place.

Dealing with a Workplace BullyThese negative behaviors affect productivity, employee health and retention.
In many organizations, bullying is actively discouraged and punishable by termination of the offending person. Find out what your company’s policies are.

At work, the bully could be your boss or a co-worker. It could even be a customer or client. It doesn’t matter who the bully is.

No one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable at work where your focus is on doing your job well.

Most bullies use words and actions short of physical contact to intimidate their victims.

Here are several suggestions you may want to consider in dealing with a workplace bully:

Ignore it

  • If a bully tries to intimidate you or make you feel bad about yourself, ignore it. You know who you are and how valuable you are to the company.
  • Don’t pull away from your workplace friendships in an effort to avoid a bully. Some bullies strive to make you feel isolated and alone. Your friendships will serve to remind you how wonderful a person you truly are.

Focus on your work

  • Focus on doing your job and doing it well. A bully wants to see you fail. This strategy works exceptionally well when a bully tries to threaten your status at work.
  • He or she might spread rumors about you or report the smallest misstep you make to your boss. Letting your work speak for itself is the best way to defeat this kind of workplace bully.
  • If the bully is your boss, he or she might criticize you for small things or withhold information or opportunities. Again, your actions will carry more weight than a bully’s words. Focus on doing your job.
  • Most bullies are looking to steal your power and make you feel inferior, incompetent and helpless. You are not those things. Make sure you send all messages to your boss through email to establish a trail of communication. Try to keep your emotions out of it.
  • If the situation with your boss is too difficult, causing you to lose sleep or affecting your health and well-being in any way, make an appointment to talk with HR. Have specific examples of the bullying behavior available to report.

Talk out your options

  • Consider speaking to someone in the human resources department for help in dealing with a workplace bully. Odds are HR has dealt with a situation like this before. They will be able to provide insight and guidance for you.
  • Use a trusted co-worker as a sounding board. You don’t want to win people over to your side. That only escalates the situation to a battlefield. Your aim is to get clarity on the situation so you can make the right decision about action to take.

Hold your ground

  • You should only consider facing off with a bully if your physical safety isn’t threatened. It’s true that some bullies are all talk and no action, but that is not a given. Don’t assume.
  • If you see that a heart-to-heart with a bully isn’t working, walk away from the discussion.
  • If you choose to confront a bully, do it in a professional manner. Don’t sink to his or her level.
  • Don’t yell or threaten. If you feel that your bully is encouraged to take the confrontation up another notch, just say, “I’m not tolerating this any longer” and walk away. Go directly to your supervisor and report the problem.
  • You don’t want to show weakness by crying or being unable to articulate your point of view. That’s usually what a bully wants to see from you.
  • If you feel your emotions getting the better of you, there’s no shame in walking away to calm down or try a different approach.

Important note: If a bully ever physically assaults you, DO NOT waste a minute before you report it to both your employer and the police.

Unprovoked, unwanted, damaging physical contact in the workplace is illegal and a definitive violation of your personal rights.