4 Ways to Deal with an Office Bully

Gail Peterson
May 9, 2014



Ever go to bed on a Sunday night dreading another week with an abusive boss or co-worker? Most of us have experienced that pit-in-the-stomach feeling at least once where we anticipate an unpleasant interaction with an employee in the office.

A bully is defined as someone who uses superior strength or influence to intimidate another person, typically forcing them to do what he or she wants. Many of these so-called bullies we grew up around in schools later enter the workforce with their abusive characteristics fully intact. Whether it’s repeated criticism, insulting behind one’s back, impossible expectations, or even exclusion from group meetings and lunches, these people are out to make our lives miserable and can cause high levels of daily stress.

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Cycles of bullying persist because of factors like personal shame, fear of standing up to authority (and jeopardizing one’s position), and general lack of awareness from other employees. While many companies have established anti-bullying policies, HR departments that offer coping resources, and management officials who can step in where needed, often the best solution to bully-induced stress lies within the victims themselves.

Here are four steps that bullied employees can utilize to take down the bully and eliminate their stress once and for all.

1. Assess the problem.

Examine how the bully is causing you stress. Assess not only what they are doing, but also why their actions are harming you personally. Track patterns which that may be triggering their behavior.

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2. Determine your boundaries.

While anyone can stand up to a bully, it is important to know that there may be limits given your level of power in the company. Before taking a stand, assess the possible consequences of confronting a bully, both for yourself and your colleagues.

3. Make a statement.

If someone is being directly offensive, you need to respond in a similarly direct manner. Otherwise, it gives them permission to continue. An expression as simple as, “Please don’t bully me,” can draw a significant response. Despite seeming cruel and insensitive to others, most bullies suffer from insecurities and have been victimized at some point in their lives.

4. Lead by example.

In order to ensure that the bully stops being abusive, it is important to reinforce your personal stance until the bully’s behavior is corrected. Continue to address the bully directly, so that you can set an example of how you want to be treated in the workplace. Like all stressors in your life, maintaining a consistent approach is key to achieving a resolution.

Gail Peterson is a perpetual entrepreneur, advice giver, and optimist. She is currently heading the post of Chief Rock Picker in her latest venture Too Many Rocks in Your Pocket.

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