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How to Handle a Bully at Work

What is a bully? When most people think of a bully, they tend to conjure up images of that mean school kid picking on the smaller kids – stealing lunch money or some other childish torture. Unfortunately bullying is no longer confined to the school yard, it’s now a prevalent situation in many work places.

So just what is a bully? A bully is someone who aggressively intimidates, threatens, terrorizes or mistreats others. Just because you are an employee or co-worker in an organization, does not mean that you need to put up with being bullied. While bullying can be a difficult and demoralizing situation, there are ways that you react and actions you can take to end workplace bullying.

1 – Keep Human Resources in the loop, but don’t totally rely on them for help. Just whose side is HR on? While most employees want to believe that Human Resources is their biggest advocate, in fact the truth can be just the opposite. Human Resource’s job is to keep the company out of overwhelming lawsuit action, but it does not mean that they will stand firmly behind the employee. For example, if the manager is being a bully who wants to target your performance, HR will advice them to start keeping documentation of your work performance.

2 – Keep accurate and detailed records (this includes e-mail and any other written correspondence). Keep a log of every threatening call you receive as well as the details of the call. Include the date and time of each incident as well as any witnesses to the exchange. If the bully is compounding the issue by sending written correspondence, keep those in a file.

3 – Report the problem. The problem can not be addressed if you don’t report it. If following the chain of command is not feasible, report the problem to another manager. Unfortunately in this day and age of litigious activity, be sure the problem is in fact bullying and not an attempt to get a co-worker or supervisor in trouble. Remember, it can go both ways and you could be called on the carpet for harassment or defamation.

4 – Finally as contradictory as it may seem, do not over react. One action that will definitely go in your favor is to handle the exchange as professionally as possible. Getting into a yelling match with the bully or breaking down into hysterics will definitely not help your case. Excuse yourself from the situation as quickly as possible, but if escape is not possible, remain professional.

Make sure that the bully is aware that you are not going to stand for their offensive behavior. Putting them on notice lets the bully know that you are serious about what is going on. In some cases, standing up for yourself in a professional manner will end the bullying when the culprit knows that you will not stand for being treated unfairly.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Dianne Walker. All rights reserved.
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