Ways of Dealing With an Office Bully


In a workplace, pretty much the same as in school or college, one or many people may have to deal with bullies on a daily basis. But when push comes to shove and you have to deal with the bully at work, what do you do? Do you become aggressive or do you simply prefer to let it slide?

While some may be mean by nature, most of them are usually jerks by choice. The reason why some like hurting others whether it’s physically, emotionally or psychologically is because by doing so they feel empowered and important. Despite the country’s best efforts to combat bullying in schools and colleges, this hasn’t transitioned into the work environment.

So how do you deal with a bully at work? Amy Gallo, an editor of the Harvard Business Review, spoke with experts about the best ways to deal with this issue. Here’s what they had to say:

Determine the point of origin of the aggression

The first thing to do when a bully is taking his or her aggression on you is to find the reason behind his or her action. Nathanael Fast, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School Of Business states that “We often notice powerful people behaving in an aggressive manner towards less powerful people especially when their competence is brought to question.” Gary Namie, founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute and author of The Bully at Work declared that people who show tremendous talent can easily become bullying victims: “Skilled and well-liked people are the most common victims of bullying simply because they pose a threat.” Therefore, it may aid to stroke the ego of the aggressor. Fast determined in his study that low levels of aggression and bullying could be eliminated by showing gratitude to the bully. “In the study, we saw that if the subordinate offered gratitude to the boss, it wiped out the effect,” he states. Small gestures such as complimenting the person for a thing he does well can go a long way.

Instead of blaming yourself, make sure you review your actions

Bullying is not and never should be acceptable. The same goes for accepting blame for being the target of a bullying attack. However, maybe it’s a good idea if you are aware of how the bully perceives you. Given today’s highly competitive business environment, not many people put politeness at the top of their list. Ask a close work colleague about how the vast majority of your co-workers perceive you treat them. Should there be an action or a behavior of yours that is being misinterpreted, that the aggressor is overreacting to, it’s best if you stop. However, this does not translate into taking blame for this. The victims usually consider it’s their fault for being bullied.

Stick up for yourself

According to Fast, “It’s critical to balance not being a threat with not being a simple doormat, which is just like opening the doors for aggression.” If you notice that the behavior of an employee is unacceptable, make sure to call him or her out on the spot. Stand up for yourself, don’t let the person mistreat you or even call you names. Show strength and articulate.

Don’t do it alone

If you are not a person who has friends, acquaintances or even alliances at work, start building them. In a work environment, every employee should have some alliances whether it’s with peers, people above or below who can be both your advocates and champions. Get people in your corner so when you have to deal with a bully, you’ll have their support. Should the bullying process be handled informally, discuss it between yourselves. Should violence be associated with bullying, tell your boss or human resources immediately.

Present the cost to business

If you need to your boss or even HR involved, don’t focus on what that person said or did – unless it was violent. Avoid getting into an old-fashioned he-said/she-said argument. Instead, try proving to your boss how the actions of the bully are affecting both the morale and the performance of the team. Present how this person is costing the company serious money.

Acknowledge there are limitations

You need to see that you will never be able to control the actions of another person. People will act as they see fit so it’s up to you to defend yourself. If the situation is a black and white abuse, it needs to stop ASAP. If the leader fails you and prefers not to take charge, it’s best if you leave. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, 40 percent of responders to an online survey have stated that they remain in a bullying situation because of pride.

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