The question is are you a victim or the person giving the bullying?
It is always interesting to hear what our callers think.
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How do you deal with the office bully?
This is the person who puts you down, rains on your parade, passive aggressive, sews the seeds of discontent!
Attack head on?
File a report with HR…
This angry bully thrives on and excels at insults and name calling, Curry says. This type of bully isn’t concerned with keeping a low profile–they’re hard to miss because of their bombastic style. They’ll embarrass and humiliate you in front of others, and are often in a position of authority or have some other sort of power that allows them to do so.
This type of bully is cutthroat with a relentless need to come out on top, Curry says. But it’s not enough to win—his or her opponent has to lose. Scorched-Earthers pull out all the stops to make sure that the victims in their sites are hurt in some way. Many cyberbullies fall into this category, she says.
Some bullies carry out their activities under the guise of “just doing what they’re told,” says workplace abuse expert Patricia G. Barnes, author of Surviving Bullies, Queen Bees, and Psychopaths in the Workplace. “The spineless supervisor agrees to do anything that management wants to get rid of employees—good employees—for reasons that have nothing to do with work,” she says. If a worker is likely to file a workers’ compensation or other claim, the Spineless Supervisor may try to intimidate or fire the person instead of dealing with the problem.
When you tell others about the bullying you’ve experienced at the hands of this person, they may have a hard time believing you. The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality differences make the Shape-Shifter seem like two different people, Curry says. This bully is charming to those they seek to take advantage of or who offer opportunity to them, “but they’ve got their claws out for anyone else,” Curry says.
This gossipy bully tells stories and defames you behind your back, Curry says. This bully can be particularly dangerous, because your reputation may be damaged before you know it’s even happening or can defend yourself.
HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM
While bullies vary in type, surprisingly, dealing with them often requires a very similar set of tactics, Barnes says. But the key is to stop the bullying as soon as you start to see it happening.
“If you’re being targeted and bullied, it’s going to take a toll. It’s a surprisingly short amount of time before you’re a nervous wreck,” she says. So, if you’re dealing with a workplace bully, try these steps.
Ground yourself. The bully is looking for your reaction. If you show that you’re hurt or upset, “that’s going to make them happy as heck,” Curry says. Find a way to stay calm and work on your game face. Try to stay calm in the face of bullying.
Start documenting. Write down what happened and when, Barnes says. Keep detailed accounts of the circumstances, exactly what was said, and who, if anyone, heard or saw it.
Turn the tables. Sometimes, calling the bully’s bluff works, Curry says. Try responding to abusive statements such as, “You always mess up,” with “What would you have done differently?” If the bully responds with another smear, like “I would have just done it right to begin with,” ask for specifics. Often, the bully has nothing constructive to add and will back off, she says.
Find a champion. Your company may have a formal human resources process for dealing with bullies. If so, don’t wait to report egregious behavior, Barnes says. The bully could be damaging your reputation behind your back. If your company doesn’t have such a process, or if the person to whom you would report is the culprit, then try to find a champion elsewhere—another supervisor or leader in the company who can intervene on your behalf, she says. “That can be a very powerful strategy, and I’ve seen it work,” she says.
Research that Bradberry’s company conducted showed that “90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress… (remaining) calm and in control,” he wrote. “One of their greatest gifts is the ability to neutralise toxic people. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ to keep toxic people at bay.”
Bradberry offered 12 of the most effective strategies these top performers use to deal with noxious people. Among them:
“Set limits (especially with complainers). People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral,” Bradberry wrote. “You can avoid this only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix the problem. They will either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.”
“Rise above. Toxic people drive you crazy because their behaviour is so irrational. Make no mistake about it; their behaviour truly goes against reason. Which begs the question, why do you allow yourself to respond to them emotionally and get sucked into the mix?,” wrote Bradberry. “The more irrational and off-base someone is, the easier it should be for you to remove yourself from their traps... Distance yourself from them emotionally and approach your interactions like they’re a science project.”
“Stay aware of (your) emotions. Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognise when it’s happening. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you’ll need to regroup and choose the best way forward,” he wrote. “Sometimes it’s best to just smile and nod… (and) give yourself some time to plan.”
“Don’t focus on problems — only solutions. “Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress,. When it comes to toxic people, fixating on how crazy and difficult they are gives them power over you, Bradberry wrote. “Focus instead on how you're going to go about handling them. This makes you more effective by putting you in control.”
Victoria Pynchon, negotiation consultant at She Negotiates Consulting and Training
How do bullies get their power? When you respond to their aggressive tactics by conceding, wrote Pynchon in her post How to Negotiate With Bullies. So, what should you do instead?
“(Bullies) accuse, threaten, annoy, pester, shame, raise their voices, shake their fists and sometimes even get physically pushy,” wrote Pynchon. “So long as your mental and physical well-being is assured, understand that these are playground tactics and you are the playground monitor.”
In the office, “your best protection against the workplace bully is identifying the tactics he's using and resisting them without raising the stakes or escalating the conflict,” she wrote. “Keep a cool head, respond to contentious tactics with an even tone and demand rational responses.”
How, exactly, can you do this? For starters, take control. “If the conversation is starting to spiral out of control, use one of these immediate, quietly intoned, statements,” Pynchon wrote. Among the most effective: “’Let’s come back to this when you’re in a calmer state of mind (or) I’m going to terminate this discussion right now, but if you’re willing to continue… later in a more civil tone, I’m happy to reconvene’.”
“Push back against brutish conduct if need be, but do not fold, nor cut and run,” she wrote. Instead, be willing to end the conversation (or a negotiation) if needed. Don’t be taken in. “You are in control of you.”