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How to Handle the Office Bully

January 30, 2017

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The office isn’t a school playground, but it’s not off limits to bullies. From a screaming boss to snubbing colleagues, bullies can create a “war zone” in the workplace.

Loyalty Leader® opinion poll found that 61 percent of employees have suffered from the effects of office bullies. They experience anxiety, depression and other health problems due to the stress. Most dreaded going into work each day and many actually quit their jobs. Workplace bullying is defined as inappropriate conduct that makes employees miserable and prevents work from getting done. Beware! The type of person who is most likely to be the office bully is often the corporate schmoozer who always says just what the higher-ups with the corner offices want to hear, at least to their faces. Workplace bullies tend to be very charming to their bosses and to everybody else but their targets. They often get invited to all the important meetings.

Common bullying tactics include:

  1. Talking about someone behind his or her back.
  2. Flaunting status or authority.
  3. Belittling someone’s opinion to others.
  4. Choosing not to return phone calls or respond to memos.
  5. Giving others the silent treatment.
  6. Delivering insults, yelling and shouting.
  7. Staring, dirty looks or other negative eye contact.
  8. Use of condescending or demeaning language.

Techniques a person can use to successfully combat workplace bullying:

  • Stop being silent about the situation.
  • Begin by warning the bully that his or her behavior is unacceptable. Standing up for yourself can stop a bully by earning his or her respect. Restrict the discussion to specific behaviors.
  • Specify the behavioral changes you want to see occur.
  • Create awareness of how the bully’s behavior is viewed by other members of the team. “You embarrass me when you publicly humiliate me in a meeting, but you also embarrass yourself. You are demonstrating your weakness.”
  • Don’t give away your personal power. Stop listening to the bully’s lies and verbal assaults.
  • Take a timeout with a day off to stand back and evaluate what you need to do in order to take care of yourself.
  • Talk to your human resources manager if your company has one. It is important to communicate your concerns to human resources, even if the bully is your boss. It is their goal to support the needs of all employees.
  • Consider talking to a counselor outside of the company to gain perspective on the situation and get an objective point of view.

The most successful option for fighting a workplace bully is documentation. Document each and every incident. Keep all memos, emails and replies to your emails. Forward anything the bully sends you to your boss and human resources. Include dates and times. You need to prove to your employer why it’s too costly to keep this bully employed.

Make a business case by showing the high turnover in your department, increases in sick days, the number of employees on antidepressants, etc. Recruit allies. The higher the bully is in the organization, the more you need allies. Check with your co-workers to see if this person is bullying them. Bully-busting is often more effective if workers band together to confront the offending person.

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