6 Ways to Handle a Workplace Bully

We’ve all grown up since high school, right? If you’ve recently found yourself wondering about the answer to this question, you may have a workplace bully on your hands—or even worse, one on your back. Dealing with mean girls and guys is one thing when you’re a young teenager; trying to hide from harassment on the job is a different story. An unpleasant daily work environment can lead to stress, depression, and, in very extreme cases, even suicide. No one should ever have the power to drive someone to those extremes.

Bullying behaviors include: attempts to control, ostracize, and undermine others, unconstructive criticism, belittling and accusatory remarks, unfair demands, cruel jokes, insults and threats. Take this quiz to determine if have ever been the victim of unfair treatment at work. If you are being bullied, you should know that the bully has probably picked on you because they view you as a weak person. The good news is that you can change his or her impression of you very quickly.

If someone has been bullying you at work here are some ways to bounce back:

1. Never accept bullying behavior.

It doesn’t matter how long the inappropriate behavior has been going on. Once you decide that you’re finished being treated unprofessionally, your whole demeanor will change, and the bully will feel like they’ve met their match. Despite what self-assurance they may try to project, bullies are actually cowards. They prey on more submissive people and view them as weak. For six simple steps to appear more confident.

Watch this funny video to get yourself primed and ready to go.

Twisted Sister \”We\’re Not Gonna Take It\”

2. Try a compassionate approach first.

Happy people don’t attack others for fun. Most likely, the person causing all of the trouble feels intensely insecure. Picking on others is a way for bullies to try to feel better about themselves, but chances are they will remain unhappy until they change their negative views. Remember to refrain from sinking to a bully’s level. Instead, try saying something like,” I’ve noticed you seem stressed lately; is something bothering you?” Or, simply ask them if they are okay.

3. Track incidents to help your case.

Keeping an organized list of events will make things much easier for you when you speak to someone in management or human resources. Should the problematic person escalate the bullying to threats of physical violence, it will be important to have a handy source of notes (including dates, times, and exact quotes) to show caseworkers and police.

4. Don’t succumb to someone else’s negativity.

A bad seed in the office can wreak havoc on team morale, and it can lead to a high turnover rate, as more employees decide to quit. It’s important to maintain a professional attitude when you arrive at work. Just because someone else acts like they have a chip on their shoulder, doesn’t mean you should, too. Keep a pleasant demeanor and try to remain unaffected, if possible.

5. Stand up for yourself.

You can turn a bully around in no time by showing them that you’re not afraid. Approach them immediately after an incident and appear confused by what has just happened. Listen to their concerns, but don’t allow them to continue the mistreatment. If the conversation escalates into something that makes you feel uncomfortable, stop them right in their tracks by putting your hand up, saying no, and speaking in a stern voice. Tell them they are being unprofessional, and that the conversation is over now, but will resume in the supervisor’s office.

6. Find strength in numbers.

Look around. It’s possible that you’re not the only one being targeted by an office bully. There’s a reason they say there’s power in numbers. Find the other victims of abuse and discuss your experiences. Having work friends will give you a support group to talk to. You can compare experiences and approach the person or a team leader together to put an end to workplace bullying once and for all.

I hope these tips help. I’m a normally quiet person, but I had to handle a workplace situation once, in the beginning of  my cosmetology career. I’d just started a job as a new assistant in a very busy salon, and I overheard one of the stylists saying how she was going to fix my behind, in not such nice words. I couldn’t figure out why she was angry with me, and I became so nervous and afraid, as I knew that this moment would set the bar for how I would be treated. I didn’t want anyone thinking they could push me around. I also didn’t want to be unhappy when I came to work, so I tucked my anxiety away and approached the bully. When I told her that I heard what she had said, and showed her that I wasn’t afraid, she immediately backed down. I could actually sense that she respected me for coming up to her. I let her know that she should say anything she felt needed to be said right to my face and not behind my back. We had no problems after that. To be honest, it felt so good to stick up for myself. It can be a real confidence booster. Give it a try!

For more posts by Sara Kosmyna.

Did you stop a workplace bully short in their tracks? Share your story below and help others find their voices.

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3 Comments

  1. John
    Posted April 28, 2011 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    I know a certain individual that could have used that advise years ago. He let people walk all over him throughout his entire career. He would keep everything in, until he got home. Once home, if you made the mistake of asking how his day was, you’d get an explosion of negativity peppered with obscene and vulgar language. He was so polite at work, but beneath the surface, he had everything bottled up and was boiling over.

  2. Steve B
    Posted April 28, 2011 at 2:57 am | Permalink

    I really like the strong points you made Sara Throughout the article. I think first and foremost you Can’t be bullied around at all during your Beginning Stages at any new Job. Establish yourself Assertively.Confidence will surpass all other new Hires, to get you set in the right direction for future Promotions.Trying a subtle approach if toughness and aggression won’t dictate your Employment. Always be very diligent in your Paperwork. Be very detailed, and Organized. It always keep you one step ahead. Definitely don’t let any Negative people ever bring you down. It’s the Titanic effect. Don’t let the Anchor Bring you down. Stay Positive and Enthusiastic no matter what. Standing up for yourself is mandatory. Let them know that your an Asset, your great work Performance will show the Dedication and Ownership that you posses. Strenght in Numbers is key. A great person once told me, an Educated man. Numbers don”t Lie, People do. That’s a Very valid Point. Your Creditability will Shine in the hard work Ethic that you Provide. I Think you made some Excellent points Sara. Very well Done on your Behalf. Remember when your in charge of any Job, Company, or your own Business, You Must Be in CONFIDENT And in CHARGE… Very well put Sarah, Excellent Job.

  3. Mary
    Posted April 28, 2011 at 4:49 am | Permalink

    I think it is terrible when good people are harrassed and bullied anywhere, especially at the work place. I think it is happening more and more now with the economy being so bad and jobs being so few. Thank you for addressing this subject. I know if it were happening to me now I would apply everything you suggested to resolve the problem. The main thing is to stand up for yourself and bring it to the right person’s attention. If you just quit, the company loses an asset and you lose your source of income, confidence and self esteem.

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