How to deal with a bully at work
How do you deal with a bully at work? When it comes to bullying in the workplace or anywhere, nothing should be taken lightly. Work is where we spend most of our time and where we are expected to do our work, and peacefully co-exist with our colleagues. However, bullies exist everywhere including the workplace. Bullies typically cause stress for the persons they bully and severely damage the self-esteem and confidence of whoever is at the receiving end of their bullying behaviour.
What is bullying?
Bullying is a deliberate attempt to belittle, control or undermine someone. It typically happens over a prolonged period of time. Bullying can severely damage anyone’s self-esteem and confidence. It can take place in private or in front of others. It’s a cause of stress to the person being bullied.
“According to a US survey, if you include witnesses, bullying affects almost half (49%) of American workers”.
Feeling bullied at work?
If you are feeling bullied at work, don’t ignore the feeling that you’re being bullied. If you feel singled out unfairly, or picked on, then, don’t fall into a trap of self-blaming or loathing. Instead, form a plan using the information in this Infographic of how to deal with a bully at work as a guide to stop the bullying and reclaim your life and workplace happiness.
Unlike schoolyard bullies, workplace bullies typically pick on employees they consider threatening to their career. Bullies often have deep-seated issues of their own related to control. Know that the bullying has less to do with your performance and your personality in most cases, but more to do with the bully’s insecurities.
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 of bullying.
2. Don’t ignore the situation
Ignoring the situation will not make it go away. Evaluate the situation carefully and confide in someone you trust so that they are aware and can look out for you. If the situation persists, escalate by discussing with a trusted manager, colleagues, mentor or anyone closest to you at work.
3. Document the bully’s actions
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.
Eventually you will need the documentation of the bully’s impact on you and the business results give the HR information to work with on your behalf.
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. Ensure that this doesn’t happen. You really don’t want to stoop to a bully’s level. Don’t be baited for any reasons.
5. Set limits and confront the bully
This is an important part of how to deal with a bully at work. Never let a bully escalate their bullying. Shouting counter insults or screaming back at the bully at work might end up getting you in trouble or making the situation worse.
With the tips from this Infographic, as you create and keep a detailed document in which you record dates, times, and locations related to each bullying behaviour, verbal attack or aggressive act, prepare to be clear with your communication and deal calmly with the bully.
“A man who uses force is afraid of reasoning.” ~Kenyan proverb
To bolster you with encouragement and support, inform your trusted circle of colleagues and mentors and then get ready to confront the bully face-to-face.
Before you speak to the bully, prepare a consequent statement – explain how you want things to be different and what the consequence will be if things don’t change.
For instance, you could say: “I would appreciate it if we work more productively together as colleagues rather than as enemies. I hope after this conversation things will improve but if you continue to call me names and yell at me in the office, I will have no choice but to refer the matter to higher authorities by making a formal complaint.
Respectively set limits on what you will tolerate and exercise your right to tell the bully to stop the behaviour. Speak to the bully in the presence of two trusted colleagues.
• Calmly illustrate the behaviour you see the bully exhibiting.
• Tell the bully exactly how their actions are impacting your work
• Tell the bully the behaviours you will not put up with in the future and the consequence should the bullying continue
• 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 professionally.
Give the bully an opportunity to explain or apologise but be well prepared that the bully might ignore you, laugh or scream at you.
If that’s the case and if the bully’s behaviour hasn’t changed after your confrontation, then you need to respond by doing what you threatened to do.
Follow through on your outlined consequences and go to your boss. If your boss doesn’t do anything, then file a formal complaint.
Note: If the bully is a raging bully who sexually harasses you based on your religion, race, age, gender, etc. You may need to step up your actions and out the bully to the authority straightaway. If this is not possible because you think making a complaint at work will be detrimental to you, then at least find someone you can share the situation with. As you talk you will start to see a way forward, which is almost guaranteed, because most people think through situations best while talking about them.
If you don’t feel like talking to anyone for any reasons, then, take some time off work. While you are away from work, start to think about how to gather evidence and involve others to expose the bully when you return back to work.
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 this next step on how to deal with a bully at work. With your documented log of bellying events, take the issue to your manager (assuming he/she is not the bully), the upper management and your Human Resources Manager and be sure to address the issue from a work perspective.
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.
Informing your manager
Some managers either deny bullying behaviours or minimize it because it’s tough for them to admit that bulling is happening on their watch. Some deny bullying because they just don’t want to deal with it. So, it’s important to confide in trusted colleagues and let them be on the lookout for you. Never be alone with a bully.
Speaking to your manager, articulate the bully’s behaviour. Be clear on how the behaviour is affecting your work and thereby the business. It’s important to show your manager that the bully’s behaviour is negatively affecting the business and therefore your manager has to resolve the problem.
Let your manager know that others are aware and are on the lookout for you if your manager doesn’t believe you. Have confidence in your judgment and let your manager see this.
Stay focused on what you want your manager to do and what you want to achieve. If your manager is slow to act, let him or her know that you will talk to someone else in a higher position and HR.
If other people are complaining about the bully as well, you may want them to join you in dealing with the issue – there is power in number! Let them know that nothing will be done if they don’t join you to speak up.
“One who causes others misfortune also teaches them wisdom.” ~ African proverb
7. Know when to have another plan
Once you’ve done the things outlined in the Infographic regarding how to deal with a bully at work, and 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. Don’t 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. You deserve a friendly, peaceful environment to do great work.
Now that you have explored how to deal with a bully at work, what other tips regarding how to deal with a bully at work or lessons learned when you dealt with a bully can you share with us? Let’s hear from you by adding your comments below.