Because life’s too short to dread facing obnoxious co-workers.
No matter how hard you work, how good you are at your job or how far you bend over backwards to be pleasant and professional, eventually you’re going to butt heads with a workplace bully.
Workplace bullies are easy to spot. They’re typically found investing copious amounts of time putting down other people’s work in a bid to cover up their shortcomings in regular juvenile attacks that can make you feel like you’ve been transported back to the bitchy girls table at highschool.
And while you can waste precious time questioning their madness – perhaps your achievements have made them feel insignificant or threatened in some way, or they have some serious mental baggage they’re not particularly adept at checking at the door when they clock on – the frustrating fact is there’s often no rhyme or reason to a colleague’s bullying behaviour.
But rather than get down in the mud and play dirty with them, and compromise your professionalism and integrity, or worse still, hand in your resignation notice, there are some simple tactics you can use to put a bullying colleague firmly back in their place. Here’s how…
1. Curb the tantrum cycle
Leadership expert Seth Godin refers to bullying behaviour as the ‘tantrum cycle’, because when a workplace bully starts to unleash on you, or another staff member, the act is typically so irritating and embarrassing that the most natural instinct is to either placate it or argue back and prove your bully wrong, however this only further escalates the situation, reigniting the entire tantrum cycle again.
Adult tantrum throwers are typically looking for attention in much the same way as a child throwing themselves on the ground in the supermarket, so the tactic for dismantling them is not dissimilar.
“The most basic way to decrease tantrums is to find the trigger moments and catch the tantrum before it starts. By creating a way for people to raise their hand, send a note, light a signal flare or otherwise highlight the problem, you can shortcircuit the meltdown without rewarding it,” says Godin.
2. Don’t give in
The easiest way to de-escalate a situation with a bully is to walk away, literally, according to I Hate People author, Jonathan Littman.
“[Bullies are] only effective when they’re on solid ground. Ground that you can take away…Next time he swears or heaves a phone book, call it out. Point out that he’s swearing or yelling, and leave the room. Or end the call,” advises Littman.
“Remember: You’re the adult dealing with a tantrum. No wise parent gives in to a child’s fit because it just leads to more fits.”
3. Document it
Any time you experience bullying from a colleague, it’s essential to document it, ideally in an email to your manager or HR department, so you have a paper trail of your bully’s ongoing bad attitude, because a workplace bully’s actions don’t just lead to hurt feelings, they can also have a far greater and more damaging effect on the long-term success of a business, by negatively impacting on team members’ abilities to perform their jobs and can ultimately be hugely detrimental to staff retainment and company KPIs.
4. If all else fails
If you’ve tried to rise above your bully’s actions, followed HR protocol and informed your manager of their actions without making progress, it may be time to consider your options elsewhere.
While you can lodge a formal complaint with the workplace ombudsman if your workplace is unwilling to address the issue, it’s likely to have a negative impact on your ability to perform your job aptly and with confidence, so whether you stay or go depends on your commitment to your current company. However sometimes it’s better to cut your losses and move on, keeping in mind that while some bullies never change their spots, attacking always comes from a place of insecurity, so the best you can do is feel sorry for your bully.
And just remember, no matter how tough it gets, at least it’s not as bad as this…
Have your say: Have you experienced workplace bullying by a colleague or superior? How did you handle it?