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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How to Deal with Workplace Bullies

'It is easy to dodge a spear that comes in front of you but hard to keep harms away from an arrow shot from behind.' Chinese Proverb

Bullies Can Be Passive-Aggressive or Outwardly Aggressive

 We all have them in our lives--those people who drive us nuts trying to run our lives although they're not very good at running their own.

In the workplace, bullies create mayhem through micromanaging and judging our every action or falsely attributing negative words and actions to us in their attempt to elevate themselves in the eyes of those in power.

Passive-Aggressive Bullies

For the passive-aggressive variety, their bullying is done behind closed doors--never in public where they could be called on for their false statements and actions. These hit and run communicators prefer to be the power well behind the throne--choosing to stay in the shadows whispering falsehoods in the ear of those in power.

These underhanded purveyors of negativity are masters at scattering misinformation, and turning one person against another through their whirlwind of chaos and drama. Under the cloak of secrecy, they pass on their own fears and biases to others to stroke their egos and make others look bad. These are the snipers who take the shots while all the time believing they are the true victims.

Aggressive Bullies

The outwardly aggressive bullies pick on people they perceive to be weak in situations they expect to get away with it.

Consider the case of Mike Rice, Rutgers's men's basketball coach. For two years he openly hurled basketballs from close range at his players' heads, legs and feet; shoved and grabbed his players; punched and kicked them; and yelled obscenities and homophobic slurs at them. No one called him on this bully behavior. Players just accepted this bad behavior as normal.

Like Mike Rice, outwardly aggressive bullies are just plain mean and believe in their power, their 'rightness' and your 'wrongness'. Verbally abusing you and threatening your livelihood is just a standard way of communicating for these meanies.

These power players have no problem making disparaging comments about you to others or straight to your face. Until someone calls them on their bad behavior, they don't give it a second thought--and even after being called on it they don't really believe they're wrong. They're right; you're wrong, end of story.

How to Deal with the Bullies

Bullies make all of us feel unsafe, unwanted, unwelcome, and unappreciated--and being the victim of a bully can result in anxiety, depression, lowered self esteem, and poor health.

Don't let the bullies get the better of you. It's not worth losing your mental or physical health to stay in a workplace that tolerates bullies. For your well-being, you must find a way to stop the bully behavior or look for another job before you are demoralized into believing the bully.

It wasn't until the media showed the video of Mike Rice's outrageous behavior that he was fired from his job. To get out from under bully behavior it must be named as such--and put out for public view--and sometimes that means going outside of the organization.

Rutgers Athletic Director, Tim Pernetti, viewed video footage of Rice's abusive behavior in December, resulting in suspending him for three games and a fine of $50,000--a mere slap on the wrist. But when the video was leaked to the media 3 months later Rice was finally fired.

When bad behavior is put out for all to see, it can be seen and named for what it is: bullying, abusive and inappropriate. For bullying to continue it must be accepted by everyone.

To deal with bullying in the workplace:
  • Start by accepting bully behavior is wrong under all conditions.
  • Shed light on the dark behavior--find a way to make it public.
  • Call bullies on their behavior. When you've had enough of their bad behavior, draw your line in the sand.
  • Get help from others.
  • If the bullying originates at the top consider other job options.
Bullies are chaos makers whose nasty energy creates negativity in the workplace and self doubt in others. It's so easy to get pulled in by their brow-beatings. Try focusing on something other than the chaos makers. Change the channel in your head and heart to gain your power back.

Minimize your contact and conversation with the bullies at work. Whether or not they consciously mean you harm, you are the one who must keep yourself out of harm's way.
Keep all conversation cordial and simple.

Theodore Roosevelt on Daring Greatly
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

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For more than 25 years, Susan Meyerott has been helping people lighten up and step over invisible barriers to change one step at a time. She speaks to your heart, puts you at ease, and makes changing easier than ever before.

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Jean | Delightful Repast said...

Sue, this is an important topic for so many people. So glad I no longer have to deal with workplace issues!

Susan J Meyerott, M.S. said...

Being your own boss has it's definite perks, Jean! Not having to answer to the obnoxious bullies is one!

Sherlene Oberlin said...

This is a must-read for all! Bullying is one action of man that have to stop. Many lives and reputation is ruined because of this, not only in workplaces but all over the world. This article is really helpful to know what kind of bully we are facing and how to deal with them. I just hope others will also look the same way.

Sherlene @

Susan J Meyerott, M.S. said...

Thanks for your comments, Sherlene. Bullies must go--but for that to happen everyone needs to accept the wrongness of bullying and the rightness of putting a stop to it.