Want to know how to deal with a bully at work? Explore these 7 tips. It is important that you know how to deal with a bully at work because bullies are part of the workplace. Although, most adults are civilized at work and they make up the majority of the work population, unfortunately, bullies are at work too and are in the minority in the workplace, so because they still exist, bullying exists. Regardless, it is imperative that you know how to deal with a bully at work.
I am sure that you will agree with me that bullying is a delicate situation for anyone to deal with whenever it rears its ugly head anywhere. When bullying happens, it is a situation that the person being bullied must handle with care. As a professional, it is important that you know how to deal with a bully at work.
To know how to deal with a bully at work, first, let’s start by defining the word, ‘bullying.’
Bullying as I see it is a deliberate attempt to belittle, control or undermine someone. It typically happens over a prolonged period of time and it can severely damage anyone’s self esteem and confidence. Bullying can be obvious or it can be subtle. It can take place in private or in front of others. Also, the circumstances can vary greatly from person to person. However, bullying is a problem that causes a lot of stress to the person being bullied. When you find yourself the victim of one of the few bullies in your workplace, you have to do something about it. Why? Well, if you spend more hours at work than you spend at home or anywhere, there is no reason to feel abused or feel like you are always standing on egg shells at work. Knowing how to deal with a bully at work will greatly allow you to enjoy your work and be part of a team.
A bully will usually combine various types of behaviour. Following are some of the typical types of behaviour that occur when someone is bullying you:
Obvious bullying might consist of:
- labelling you in front of the others
- calling you names
- hauling abuse at you or ridiculing you directly and openly
- being sarcastic towards you or your ideas
- damaging your reputation at any given opportunity
- using physical or verbal violence towards you
- instant rages over trivial matters
- humiliating you in front of colleagues
- constantly undervaluing your efforts
- persistently criticising you
- blaming you whenever things go wrong.
Bullying can sometimes be unconscious. The bully may be unaware of their actions or the full effects of their behaviour. On the other hand, a bully that is your manager may be aware of causing you offence, but they may see it as strong management or positive hands-on supervision.
The bully hides his or her own inadequacies, while making out that other people are at fault. If you are being bullied, perhaps the bully has seen you as more capable, successful, popular, or attractive than they are.
It’s not your fault, it’s them.
Although it is important that you know how to deal with a bully at work, there is no reason for bullying to occur at work, home, school or anywhere. Remember, you don’t deserve to be bullied, because no one does. Do not in any way think that you caused the bullying. Bullies are people with issues of their own and they feel a great need to control other people, either openly or indirectly. Usually, at work, bullies are in positions of authority, they could be managers or supervisors. Their actions may be driven by envy, fear of inadequacy and insecurity about their own competence, and the bullying behaviour may emerge in their desire to keep any possible rivals down.
To be honest, bullying is essentially cowardly. The bully hides his or her own inadequacies, while making out that other people are at fault. If you are being bullied, perhaps the bully has seen you as more capable, successful, popular, or attractive than they are. In most cases, the targets of bullying are usually above average performers, much more efficient and better at what they do than the bully. Less common reasons for bullying include race, vulnerability, timidity, gender or disability.
Remember, you are not alone.
The good news is that you are not alone and bullies exist in all workplaces and offices. For instance, the Zogby study, in conjunction with the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute (WBTI), found that:
- 45% of Americans have not experienced or witnessed bullying, but 37% have been bullied; 12% have witnessed bullying.
- Bosses comprise 72% of bullies.
- More men (60%) are bullies, but women bullies target other women (71%).
- 62% of employers ignore the problem; 40% of employees targeted by a bully never tell their employer.
- 45% of people targeted by a bully experience stress-related health problems including debilitating anxiety, panic attacks, and clinical depression (39%).
Other surveys (by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, TUC, UMIST, Staffordshire University Business School) suggest that bullying is happening to between 3 and 14 million employees in the UK, and from extensive feedback, pro rata in other countries. See case histories for the similarities between your case and those of others.
How do you know if you are being bullied?
For you to know how to deal with a bully at work, you must know when you are being bullied. If you regularly try and avoid a particular person at work, if you regularly feel intimidated by them, afraid to work near them or you get yelled at, criticised, put down, insulted or frowned upon by them, then, you might be at the receiving end of bullying.
Am I working with a bully?
You may be working with a bully if your mistakes are constantly brought up or if your work is sabotaged. If you wake up in the mornings and dread going to work, you may have a bully as a co-worker or boss. If you feel as described above, these are the actions to take to defeat the bully. See Are You Being Bullied at Work?
12 Tell-tale Signs and What to Do About It. If you know the tell-tale signs of bullying, then be sure to know how to deal with a bully at work.
7 Tips on how to deal with a bully at work:
1. First, assess the situation
When it comes to feeling bullied, you have to trust your instincts. If you feel bullied, then, you are probably a victim. Keep a close eye on what is happening around the situation between you and the person in question.
- Is everyone afraid of the person or is it just you?
- Has the person in question got the reputation for bullying other co-workers?
- Are others experiencing the same situation with the perceived bully?
If others are experiencing this bullying behaviour and it is not just you then, get together with them and find out how they feel and what the next step should be. There’s power in numbers. If it is just you, go ahead and do something about the situation.
2. Don’t ignore the situation
Don’t think ignoring the situation will make it go away. Guess what, it is not going to stop the bully. As a matter of fact, you are giving the bully more power by not addressing the situation. There is no need to add fuel to the perceived fire power that the bully has or ignited. So, evaluate the situation carefully. You cannot ignore bullying; you should not allow yourself to be a victim but rather try and be victorious. If you are being bullied, discuss the situation with a trusted manager at work, contact Human Resources (HR) support manager, a trusted colleagues, speak to your mentor or anyone closest to you. You need to confide in someone so that they are aware and can look out for you.
3. Document the bully’s actions
This is an important aspect of how to deal with a bully at work – any time you experience a bullying behaviour, document the date, time, the name of person(s) present and details of the incident. Note names down if other employees witnessed the incident. Keep a log of every little thing – insults, curses, what’s said, how it’s said and any other back stabbing moves made. If when you eventually seek help from HR, documentation of the bully’s impact on you, the business results and success, gives the HR information to work with on your behalf. Remember, you cannot work at your best if you are under a lot of stress as a result of bullying. The bully is not just hurting your feelings; the bully is also sabotaging business success. If bullying occurs in an email or in any correspondence, keep the electronic e-mail and file a hard copy.
“If a donkey kicks you and you kick back, you are both donkeys!”
4. Don’t play their game
An African proverb says, “If a donkey kicks you and you kick back, you are both donkeys!” It’s easy to let someone push your buttons and for you to fly off the handle at them. However, you should ensure that this doesn’t happen. You really don’t want to stoop to their level. In a professional environment, you have to show respect for your work and your colleagues. Try your best to ignore the bully and their actions. Don’t be baited for any reasons, you don’t want them to set you up. Good chances are that the bully is looking for a reaction from you. When they don’t get one, they may eventually relent and stop.
5. Set limits and confront the bully
Remember that you could respectively set limits on what you will tolerate and exercise your right to tell the bully to stop the behaviour.
Bullies are “only effective when they’re on solid ground. So, you need to shake their solid ground so that they take notice.
Confronting a bully may be scary and hard. But, as Jonathan Littman and Marc Hershon suggest in I Hate People, bullies are “only effective when they’re on solid ground. So, you need to shake their solid ground so that they take notice.
It could be easier to convey your message better if you find the time to practise the steps with a friend so that you are more in control and comfortable responding when the bully attacks.
- Inform the bully that you want to speak to them in private but with a trusted third party present.
- Calmly illustrate the behaviour you see the bully exhibiting –describe what you see precisely. For instance, you can say, ‘You regularly sneak up and lean over my cubicle, yell my name out aloud, and read what’s on my screen aloud. Twice, you called me a loser in the middle of the office.’
- Tell the bully exactly how their actions are impacting your work – I am not comfortable in my cubicle, I always have to look up, your actions make me feel as if I need to hide from you and also hide what is on my screen, or change the position of my screen.
- Tell the bully what behaviours you will not put up with in the future – In the future, I would appreciate it if you don’t sneak up and lean on my cubicle unless you ask me first. My cubicle is my private work space and your actions make me uncomfortable there. In addition, I will not tolerate any name calling from you.
- Stick with your statement and if the bully tries to violate your space, don’t move, rather, stand your ground, and maintain eye contact and confront if necessary.
By making statements about the bully’s conduct directly to the bully, you’re putting them on notice. Keep up your game, don’t lose your temper or composure, but calmly let them know that you are serious about not allowing them to walk all over you. By the second or third attempt, the bully will know that their game is up and change their bullying behaviour. You can address the bullying behaviour of a bully towards you in your workplace with persistence and personal courage.
This confrontational approach works in the middle of the office as well. If the bully is yelling abuse at you, in the presence of everyone, be firm and ask them to stop right there in front of everyone. You can neutralize the bully’s behaviour and regain your clash-free workplace.
6. Put the bully on blast and inform trusted senior authorities
If after you have confronted the bully you haven’t noticed a change, then, it is time for the next step. If you are sure that you’ve done all you feel you can do, take the issue to your Human Resources Manager. Remember to take your documentation with you and be sure to address the issue from a work perspective. Elaborate on how the behaviour is affecting your work. Inform them of how important the issue is and must be sorted out, stressing your desire to continue working in a comfortable, safe environment.
7. Know when to have another plan
Once you’ve asked for help and nothing changes, you may need to consider the possibility of leaving or changing departments if you work in a big organisation. It is important that you think of yourself first. It’s not worth it to stay in a negative environment just to prove a point. If the bullying is causing you a lot of stress, you need to seek professional help. There are also legal steps you can take to help you. Investigate your options thoroughly before making any decisions. And always remember that you deserve a friendly, peaceful environment to work in just like we all do.
Now that you have explored 7 tips on how to deal with a bully at work, let’s hear from you about any bullying experience that you have had or witnessed and it was dealt with or how you dealt with it. Leave your comments below.