Workplace Bullies: How Do You Deal With Them

Workplace Bullies: How Do You Deal With Them

Bullying is an abuse of power that must be called out to maintain a healthy workspace.

According to the 2021 U.S. Workplace Bullying survey, 30% of employees have direct experience being bullied at work. The typical office bully constantly puts you down, ignores your opinions and blames you for things you had nothing to do with. Some bullies are better at concealing their behaviors than others, and some might even gaslight you into thinking that you are making a big deal out of nothing. 

Dealing with all this for prolonged periods can be a very emotionally scarring experience, leaving the victim with a lot of anxiety and an inability to concentrate on their work. Some victims get so traumatized due to constant bullying that they end up quitting the jobs that they worked so hard to get. If you or anyone you know is being bullied at work and aren’t sure how to stop it, here are some tips you can use to effectively handle the bully. 

Initiate a conversation

If you feel like you are being bullied at work, one of the first things you can do is to try to have a healthy discussion with the bully. In this discussion, you should focus on things the bully values at the workplace and patiently explain why their actions are causing problems. You can start the conversation with statements like, “I know you care a lot about our performance as a team, but when you do XYZ, it ends up being counterproductive and adversely affects morale.” Spin the conversation in a way that they actually feel the need to change their behavior.

Confront the bully with their behavior 

A bully often behaves like a child, yelling and screaming like a toddler would when their parents don’t get them what they want. Remember to act in a balanced manner and set boundaries with the bully outright, telling them that you won’t accept childish behavior. If they abuse you, point out their behavior to them and refuse to have a conversation till they act more professionally. If they criticize your suggestions in a meeting, you can always flip the conversation and ask them to propose a solution instead of addressing their critique. 

Find a support system

One of the best defenses against being bullied is to create a network of friends, including not only your co-workers but also those in positions of authority. This gives you the psychological support you would need to handle the situation while also providing you with strong workplace connections to vouch for you when the bully criticizes you for no reason. Another defense system you can rely on is the rules of the workplace. If you strictly adhere to the workplace guidelines, it will give your bully fewer vulnerabilities to exploit against you. Being a rule follower also makes the bully worry that you would be quick to report their actions if things go out of hand. 

Report the bully

The final bullet in your arsenal is to report the bully to your company’s human resources (HR) management team. But before you do that, ensure you have clear documentation of all their behavior. You should keep tabs on the emails they sent you, take note of the people around when the bullying occurred and record the date and time at which everything took place. Doing so will give the HR team proof of the fact that you were being specifically targeted by the bully. If for some reason, HR fails to act on your complaint, then you should consider seeking the advice of an employment attorney, and they’ll guide you on how you can take legal action against the bully. 

How do workplace bullies choose their victims?

When you are dealing with bullying at the workplace, your first instinct would be to think, “Why me?”. Well, there are several common characteristics that typical bullying victims have in common and understanding them is crucial in eliminating mistreatment in the workplace.

One of the most common reasons a bully would pick someone as a target is because they feel intimidated by them. Ironically, while having a strong support system can protect you against bullying, it can be the very thing that makes you a target. Bullies aren’t typically adept at socializing and thus, those who are good at it can make the bully feel powerless. Bullies also dislike anyone who is different and stands out. So those who belong to a different gender, sexual orientation, or race or even those who have physical differences, like being overweight, tend to become targets of bullying. 

Another reason why certain people are more likely to be bullied than others is that they are introverted and non-confrontational. They tend to focus on their tasks and are not too involved in office politics, which is why they might let the bullying go on for far too long before they actually decide to report it. The main thing to take away from this is that you shouldn’t feel like there is something wrong with you just because you are being bullied. It should, instead, highlight your strengths and the bully’s insecurities and prejudices. 

As of 2021, accountability for bullying has been on the rise. According to the U.S. Workplace Bullying Institute, negative outcomes for bullies have increased to 23% compared to 11% in 2010. Hopefully, these figures along with the tips we shared encourage you to stand up for yourself and seek the help you need to confront the bully. 

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Header image courtesy of Freepik

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