How to deal with office bullies (Part-2)

Stuck with an office bully? How to deal with someone who criticises your work and undermines all your efforts? Looking for ways to cope with an aggressive, rude and obnoxious manager. Try these strategies to deal with an unbearable boss.

The first part of the bullying article discussed the types of bullies, why bullies oppress others, how bullying affects the victims and reasons why bullies get away with their behaviour. Read the article to get a few insights on bullying behaviour.

Bullies don't change their behaviour easily because it is a personality trait. Bullying gives them a sense of power over others and their egos a big boost. It also puts them in a position of control – they are on a throne and they don't like to be challenged. That's just one aspect, the bottom line, however, is that bullies get away with their conduct because there are no policies against such behaviour, in most corporate offices. Bosses inadvertently foster this culture.

Most bosses ignore the trait in others, even after being witness to bad behaviour. It is often shrugged off as just a person's way of working. The work culture, in a way, paves the way for bullies to succeed. Bullying is just not acceptable behaviour, even if knuckles aren't being rapped. It is not alright. No organisation or boss should allow bullying of employees by some blue-eyed boy (girl).

It is rare to find co-workers take up the cudgels in support of the bullied; it is for the victims to do something about it. Let me walk you through some ways to deal with office bullies.

6 ways to tackle an office bully

Obnoxious behaviour of a colleague targeting you can be difficult to deal with. How do you respond when you are being bullied? Let's find out –

Speak out at the first instance

A lot of bullying happens because people do not set boundaries. The bullies do not know their limits, nor do they recognise that they have crossed the boundary. On the other hand, the bullied do not set boundaries or protect their interest. People will treat you the way you allow them to treat you, so it is for you to speak up when you experience bullying.

The ideal way to deal with bullying is to nip it in the bud before it takes root and spreads. Bullies back off when confronted – don't give them the benefit of doubt, speak up the moment someone intimidates you with their behaviour. Speak up and stop them before it can manifest into something sinister.

Confrontation doesn't have to develop into an argument. You can present your protest, firmly, but politely too. Try the following to beat them at their own game –
  • Let them know why their behaviour is a problem with something on these lines – 'I noticed that you took the credit (elaborate) or I notice that you cussed at me/shifted the blame on me during the meeting. I would appreciate that you don't do that in future because such behaviour makes it difficult to foster a healthy working environment'
  • Call them by name and look them in the eye when you discuss the issue. It is more powerful and has a better impact. Keep your voice calm and be control of your body language. Tell them you show them respect and expect the same in return
  • Impress on values, try something like this – 'I know you are all excited about the project - but we are working as a team - and while I understand your exuberance - it undermines your intentions - when you (give specifics) - and that is a put off'

You do not have to be aggressive to send out a loud message, but at the same time focus on your body language – don't let your fears and anxieties surface. Don't hunch or look down or fidget. Throw your shoulders back, make eye contact and speak.

If you ignore the first time someone tries to walk over you, chances are they will do it again and the bullying will only worsen. Many a time people let such behaviour pass, don't be that person. Assert your power when you are in the right and demand better behaviour.

Document the behaviour

Let's assume that you have been in a toxic work environment for a long period and have done nothing to stop it. It is not too late to remedy it. While the first approach will not work here, maintaining a record of the toxic behaviour can be of help.
  • Make copies of emails or hand-written notes that are demeaning and aggressive as evidence
  • Jot down the sequence of events of things that happened along with date and time. Clearly mention what happened, when it happened, who was present etc.
  • At the same time do not exaggerate or imagine situations, keep everything relevant to facts
  • Also, collect evidences that establish assessable results on assignments that you work on and every email of appreciation that you receive from others
  • The above actions will help you prove your case if you choose to report the bully. Solid evidence of the bullying will help you prove your case. While appreciation from others will establish your credibility

Relax and de-stress

This is easier said than done, especially in the face of extreme bullying, but it needs to be done to maintain sanity. All that happens in the office can have an adverse effect on your life, in office and outside of it. Carrying all that worry and tension can affect how you function within your personal space – with spouse, children, parents, friends and colleagues.

Attempt to balance the negative impact with positive influences. Schedule quality time for yourself, pick up a hobby, play a sport, exercise your mind and body or pick up a book to read. Spend time in the company of supportive people, whom you can vent your frustrations to. A work-life balance is a big healer, it will help you cope with stress and prevent episodes of depression.

Confide in your Boss or someone senior

If you fail in your attempts to reason with the bully, then you need to speak to someone higher up in the corporate ladder about the problems that you are facing with the bully. Speak to the team leader if the bully is a colleague, to the manager if the bully is the team lead… you know the drill.

You have to make someone aware of the situation. Apprise them of the situation, tell them all that has been happening and all that you have tried to do to smoothen things out etc. Let them know that you are broaching the subject with them because all your efforts have failed and the situation is quite awful and you need them to intervene. Be tactful, don't just go and shoot that you are being bullied.

If speaking doesn't work, then make it official and send them an email mentioning your grievances and CC it to someone higher up in the chain.

Talk with the Human Resources person

You can approach HR with the problem, but whether they are the right person depends on their scope of work. HRs have a broad role to play in an organisation, but how they carry out their duties matters. For instance, an HR may concentrate only on regulations, policies and compliance or they may be the type who focus on ethos, principles and people. The second type of HR is your best bet, they don't function based on company policies; they do what is best to maintain the company culture.

Use tact when talking to the HR, don't sound whiny and accusing. Put your complaint as an unethical practice which is hampering your performance. Keep the proofs ready to illustrate the problem.

Call it quits

Look for a new job, if your attempts fail. Ultimately, your pride, self-confidence and psychological welfare are vital to your existence than the pay cheque. You'll do better away from the bullying and the stress. Your performance at a new job will be better than your performance when you were being bullied.

The mental frame of mind and the working environment play a major role in giving direction. Start your job search at the earliest, if you want peace of mind. It is the last resort, but it is not running away. You are just making an informed choice of moving to a better environment.

Hope these tips help you if you are faced with a bully at work. Leave a comment letting us know what you would do in a similar situation.

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Author: Natarajan11 Jun 2019 Member Level: Gold   Points : 9

An excellent follow-up article, a must read for people who are faced with bullies. Confronting a bully is often not easy because these people are well placed in the hierarchy and have the ear of the boss. But the author has mentioned some good assertive but civilised options.

Documenting behaviour would be easy in the present day world with handy gadgets that can give us an audio or an audio-video record of the events as they happened. Documenting is a little easier if 2-3 victims or colleagues in the same boat get together. I like the part about relaxing and ignoring the impact of the bully. One way of coping up is not to give the person the sadist satisfaction that you are suffering at his/her hands.

Confiding to the superior or the boss is something that should be well thought of. Choosing the person is very important because at times it can backfire if the superior has a soft corner for the bully. Any documentation submitted to HR should be thought over because it becomes a permanent record in the file and can be used against us even though it is unethical.

I took the last option, changing the job. In real life, with some many inter-connections and inter-dependency in the office, it is not easy to confront a bully and change things. Changing the job is a challenging decision, just for the sake of a bully giving up our pay or seniority doesn't sound good. But if you put yourself first, you need to be in a sane frame of mind for the sake of yourself and your dependent, then quitting makes sense when other options do not work.

Author: Umesh13 Jun 2019 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 3

The second part of the article is equally good and much more interesting as it has tackled the ways to address the problem of bullies in the workplaces.

It is true that if we meticulously follow the ways adopted by these bullies and take pre-emptive actions, they will not be successful in their misadventures. Sometimes we have to be tough with them. In life, we have to sometimes deal with such people sternly and firmly otherwise they will always underestimate us and will continue behaving in the same way as they do with gullible colleagues.

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