Bullies can be everywhere today. They can be bosses, leaders, consultants, coworkers, peers, vendors, and customers. While you may believe you don’t take their demeaning remarks seriously, a bully is a bully! It sabotages results and negatively impacts you and others, regardless of how you rationalize it!
Like many of you reading this article, I’ve experienced bullies in the workplace. It’s not fun, and bullies can be difficult and scary to deal with. But recognizing and dealing with bullies in the workplace is essential. Ironically, when doing so, you honor yourself and create a better workplace environment.
Why Do Bullies Bully?
It’s All About Power. Bullies, even those who are successful, demean others, diminish others’ successes, and make bad jokes at others’ expense to make themselves feel better.
Others’ Enable Them. You cannot change them. Many people enable bullies by falsely believing you can let their comments go in one ear and out the other. But they forget that people have brains and emotions in between!
They Are Manipulative. Bullies like to sabotage others and can be sneaky saboteurs. After they bully someone, they often step in to save them and let others know.
They Are Allowed to Do So! Bosses and leaders need to get real. With stress and mental health at an all-time high, bullying costs companies millions in turnover, poor results, and negative cash flow.
They Cannot Tell the Truth! Bullies are spin doctors and are unafraid of blaming others. Remember, their fear of not having power, losing control, and others’ success makes for a toxic workplace.
The Truth About Workplace Bullying
Bullies cause an emotional, psychological, and physical toll in the workplace.
The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) defines workplace bullying as repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets). It is abusive conduct that is:
- Threatening, humiliating, or intimidating.
- Sabotaging prevents work from getting done.
- Verbal abuse.
The Facts About Workplace Bullying (aka Stats)
According to the 2021 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey:
- Almost 60 percent of Americans have suffered abusive conduct at work or seen it
- Remote bullying occurs via virtual meetings
- 52 percent of bullies are non-management, and 40 percent are managers
- Women bully women at twice the rate they bully men
- Exposure to others being bullied causes harm to the observers (e.g., anxiety, exhaustion, hypertension)
How to Deal with Bullies at Work!
Talk with Them. Share specific incidents with them 1:1. If it continues, talk with your boss, your boss’s boss, and/or human resources.
Let Your Boss Know. Or, your boss’s boss! Document it (e.g., times, dates, witnesses). Record it (e.g., cell phone, video). Share with human resources and your attorney. Remember, their bullying won’t stop if you don’t take the right actions.
Move On. This sounds simpler than it is and may take a while, especially if you’re hoping for a new job first. It’s important you remove yourself from the environment as soon as possible.
Experience the Grief. Honor your feelings and self-care. If you don’t, you will experience an emotional meltdown later at an inopportune time!
Other Bullying Considerations to Be Aware Of
Bullying has also become a catch-all phrase. Talk with your executive coach and/or therapist for a reality check and on how to address the issue.
Poor Work Quality. When your boss is critical of a project or work document, it may not be bullying. Instead, s/he may need a coach for guidance on how to give constructive feedback. But don’t ignore the feedback in these situations, or it could hurt your career! Ask for help and use others’ objective and honest input to improve.
Team Bullying. When team members are snarky, dismiss others’ ideas, or sabotage others’ work, it’s time to talk about appropriate behavior. Provide meeting and team building training! Or, you’ll continue to miss deadlines, exceed budgets, and fail to achieve intended results.
When You Make a Mistake. Review what happened. Did the person belittle you, or were your feelings hurt because you made a mistake that the person caught and corrected? Otherwise, you may be labeled a bully!
Time to Find True Friends. It’s time for new friends when they fear the bully knows they are your friend. Or, they cannot tell the truth about what happened due to fear of retribution.
For example, when asked about witnessing someone being bullied, the person said, “No. I just agreed she was bullied because I thought I was expected to say that!”
Another example is, “Does the bully know we’re friends? I don’t want to get caught in the middle of this problem since I need to work with him/her in the future.”
Develop Confidence in Yourself When Being Bullied
This is the hardest part. Bullies thrive on insecure people (whether you can admit to your insecurities or not) and are astute at recognizing it. Tell the truth and work with a therapist or skilled coach. When you elevate your inner power and confidence (e.g., brag-work), you become a stand for a bully-free workplace!
As a boss or leader, remember that tolerating bullying will cost you customers, top talent, and money! If you are the bully, get help before it’s too late (e.g., loss of business, awards, jobs, careers, and friends)!
©Jeannette Seibly 2023 All Rights Reserved
Jeannette Seibly is a champion for bosses and teams delivering intended results. Does your company or department have a persistent problem? Her wisdom guides clients through sticky situations and challenging relationships for dynamic results! Contact Jeannette for a confidential discussion.
A note from Jeannette about how to deal with a bully in the workplace: It’s essential that, as a boss and leader, you proactively address bullying in the workplace. Otherwise, bullying can cost your company millions in turnover, poor results, and negative cash flow. Contact me for a confidential conversation about how to stop bullying in your company!
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