Join Tatiana Kolovou for an in-depth discussion in this video Working with a bully, part of Communication Tips.
- We've all met the workplace bully, but do we truly know who they are and how to deal with them? In their book, The Bully At Work, Gary and Ruth Namie define bullying as "the repeated, malicious and verbal mistreatment "of a person, the target." They argue that the reason for this behavior is due to the bully's desire to control the target. Let me be clear here and say that bullying is not illegal harrassment. It doesn't involve actual violent acts or everyday rudeness, rather it's targeted, persistent, and focused mistreatment of a vulnerable person that the bully wants and needs to control.
Control is a primary motivator and a key part of the equation needed to both understand and prevent it. Bullying can take several forms but some of the most common are repeated isolation, intimidation, humiliation and aggression towards a coworker. Most workplace bullies have a position of authority. They have considerable tenure, or maybe experience, but they can also be in a position of equal status as their target.
Women and men are equally likely to bully; however, research suggests that a woman is more likely to be bullied by another woman than by a man. The best defense for dealing with a bully is to develop a strategic offense. Now this is tough stuff to talk about. If you're dealing with a bully at work, here's some strategies I'd like to share with you. Establish your boundaries. If you must interact with this person, know before you interact what you are willing and you are not willing to tolerate.
Knowing your boundaries will help you prevent being caught off guard. For example, if your boss bullies you into picking up her dry cleaning on your way back from a meeting, or consistently sets deadlines that are impossible to meet so that you fail, you need to confront and diplomatically decline or ask him to stop. Reject unrealistic standards. The workplace bully sets impossible standards waiting for others to trip up.
But is it realistic for you to never depend on assistance from your colleagues? Isn't it okay or normal not to have all the answers about company procedures? Is it realistic to expect others never to make a mistake or to be on task 100% of the time? This mindset is a helpful reality check. Resist the self-blame game. Bullies bank on the fact that their targets are nice and empathetic people. If you tend to doubt or blame yourself first, stop now.
Don't ask yourself, "What could I have done to prevent the situation?" but rather think, "Are there any systems "we can set in place so this doesn't happen again?" As part of your strategic prevention, you also want to be prepared to face your bully. Before you do that, seek advice from people you trust and respect. Ask these questions: Have they noticed this behavior? Do they recognize any fault on your end? You may consider using rule of two, which means going two levels above the bully's position to find an ally.
You'll need to be strategic and rely on your known allies for advice. Now, let's talk about how you're going to confront your bully. First, establish a power stance. That means you should stand instead of sit. You can position yourself so that there's a barrier such as a desk between you and the bully. Meet in your office or a neutral space with others present, not in the bully's office. Maintain strong eye contact.
Speak with conviction. Establish the time that you meet and the topic for discussion. So you can say, "Hi, John, I'd like to "meet with you on Tuesday at one in the afternoon "to discuss communication strategies moving forward." Or, "Deanne, I want to meet with you "to debrief the staff meeting that we both "attended yesterday." Script your talking points. This is likely to be a high-pressure situation for you, so the more you've practiced and scripted your talking points, the better you will be at facing the bully.
First, be calm. Describe the situation. "Lately, you've asked me on several occasions "to do x, y or z." Describe the behavior. "You often raise your voice, "and you show anger and frustration "in your face." Ask for what you need. "I would appreciate it if you gave me "clearer directions, for example, "this, this, or this." Avoid raising your voice and approaching the conversation in a positive tone.
Give them a reason. "If you do that, then I'll be better able to complete the specific task." And finally, ask for agreement. "Can we agree to this change from now on?" Bullying is a recognized problem in the workplace. Learning how to respond and counter the behaviors of the workplace bully will help you stop them on their tracks.
- Understanding introversion and extroversion
- Persuading people
- Negotiating your needs
- Making small talk
- Saying no
- And more…
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