Workplace bullying, and bullying in general, has become a hot topic recently due to numerous high-profile national news stories and the promotion of a more targeted focus on stopping mistreatment and harassment throughout our society, whether it takes place in the home, at school, or within an office. Bullying is never warranted or acceptable, and no one should have to live, learn, or work in an environment that is full of fear, intimidation, and abuse.
You’ve probably heard the conventional wisdom that all bullies are really cowards (which is accurate) and the best course of action is to stand up to a bully because challenging them will reveal their hidden nature and expose their spinelessness. However, that advice can become problematic when the tormentor is your boss or another superior at work. Dealing with a bully in the office can be more difficult than confronting the kid who stole your lunch money in the fifth grade, but there are a few tactics you can use to handle a colleague or supervisor who repeatedly crosses the line at work.
The next time you find yourself in an intimidating situation where your manager or a fellow employee is shouting at you about a work-related issue, try interjecting and asking for clarification. By refusing to get emotional and instead derailing the person’s train of thought, you may be able to cut the bullying off at the source. An added bonus is the fact that, by questioning the person over the reasons for their behavior, you may have a better understanding of what sets them off and may be able to avoid similar blowups in the future. If this strategy is unsuccessful then try these four other tactics:
1. Record the Bully’s Actions
If you are the victim of repeated bullying, one of the best things you can do is to keep detailed notes on every incident. By tracking each episode, not only will you have evidence to present to senior leadership or personnel in the HR department, you will also have information on the circumstances surrounding these events as well as potential witnesses.
2. Arrange a Meeting with the Bully (and Another Person)
It may seem strange, but some bullies go through life completely unaware that their conduct is unacceptable and offensive. There are numerous examples of bosses who were once overbearing, threatening presences in the office but changed their demeanor simply because someone held up a mirror and showed them the damage their actions were causing. Before you schedule a meeting with the bully, you must first speak with a supervisor or trusted colleague and reach out to an HR representative to sit in on the conversation. It’s important to bring HR into these situations not just to have a third party involved but also for them to document the situation.
When you have the chance to speak with the bully in a safe environment, be straightforward, honest, and direct in your communication with them and explain that you will no longer allow them to treat you as they have in the past. Sometimes the best solution is to clear the air and have a candid discussion about the hostile work environment a colleague has created.
3. Continue to Be Vigilant
Once you have spoken with the bully and involved the HR department, don’t rest on your laurels and assume everything has been resolved. Follow up with HR regarding the situation and, if the bullying continues, make sure the problem stays on their radar. Don’t simply leave the ball in their court. File additional reports/grievances if necessary and keep in touch with your HR representative.
Depending upon the severity of the bullying, you should also consider filing a formal complaint with the company’s professional ethics committee (if they have one) or a local, state, or federal body. In cases where physical abuse or threats of bodily harm have occurred, you must report the perpetrator to the police as soon as possible.
4. Exhaust All Options
If you have tried the tactics above and still find yourself the victim of intimidation and bullying at work, some may suggest considering quitting. However, before you even think about taking this drastic step, you must first work with HR to review all possible solutions so that you won’t have to give up your position. They may be able to help you determine the appropriate recourse or assist you in extracting yourself from the situation by organizing a transfer to a different office or department.
No one should have to work in an environment that is hostile or threatening. If you are the victim of bullying at work then you need to get help in order to correct the problem. The suggestions in this article may not work in all situations, but they have proven helpful for some. In the end, how you decide to deal with a bully in the workplace is up to you.