Bullies in the school yard are in the news nearly every day. Some schools are taking active stances against them, which is great. However, in the business setting, those bullies who have grown up and are now working have not given up their tactics just because they are adults. Those same behaviors and attitudes are still there. How you handle them will help preserve your own peace of mind.
It's your career so making some good choices about dealing with a bully is the best way to handle it:
- First and foremost if the bullying seems to originate from a discriminatory or harassing mindset, involve HR from the beginning.
General bullying tactics come from a controlling and often narcissistic personality. They can be confrontational, backstabbing or focused on public embarrassment. In any of these cases, having a good understanding of yourself, confidence in your work, and a calm response is your best defense.
- The Confrontational Bully is the one who will attempt to 'get in your face', usually out of the sight of others. They seem to prefer the direct approach looking for the immediate emotional response.
Stay calm and don't give them an indication that you feel threatened. Easier said than done, yes, since the first occurrences are unexpected situations. Try and remind yourself to pay attention to the details of the encounter and focus on that. The less you react the less the bully feels in control. Once the situation is defused, document it. For a few bullies a single unsuccessful encounter will be the end. If it happens again you will have a record and can show a pattern.
- The Backstabber is often one of the more hurtful bullies. They create illusions of a friendly relationship while undermining you, mostly out of sight. The most common tactic is gossip mongering. By the way, you may not only be a target, but part of their interaction with another. Did they tell you something 'on the down low about a fellow worker?
Dealing with the backstabber may take some personal fortitude. They may have cultivated a fairly close appearing relationship with you. Once the source of the trouble is known, the emotional factor can be very intense because of the duplicity. Cut personal ties, but remain polite at work. Don't sink to their level and retaliate --it doesn't do anything but demean yourself.
- The Ringmaster. Not exactly a genuine term for the tactic, but very descriptive. This is the person who attempts to turn every little error or mishap into a three-ring circus of embarrassing the target to the greatest possible extent and audience. In some cases they may even offer assistance just to be able to keep the attention coming by making it a bigger deal than it was.
Trying to ignore the hubbub can seem impossible, at least in the short-term. Handle the situation as best you can, then drop it. If they keep bringing it up, pass it off as inconsequential. If they want to make a loud show of helping you pick up something, calmly thank them and move on. The more often they are showing themselves as instigators, the sooner everyone has their number.
These are only a few of the possible situations you may face, but they represent reasonable concerns. If you are interested in learning more about this or similar workplace issues, visit the Career Advice or Productivity sections of our blog.
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