Dealing with a Workplace Bully

Whether it’s a jealous coworker that tries to undermine you or a supervisor who loves to yell, you’ll likely deal with a workplace bully at some point in your career. You may have a great job otherwise, but a single individual can make going to work everyday a dreadful experience. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to mitigate the damage inflicted by negative people. Read on for some tips for dealing with difficult personalities at work.


Avoid When Possible

If the bully isn’t a close co-worker or supervisor, you might be able to avoid the person entirely. You can be civil when contact must be made, but otherwise pretend the person doesn’t exist. Keep conversations strictly about work, and ignore rude comments. Bullies love to upset their targets, and they’ll thrive on your discomfort. Once they realize you aren’t being sucked into their game, they’ll likely move on.

Set the Record Straight

Some coworkers or supervisors may attempt to sabotage you by lying, placing blame or taking credit for your accomplishments. To avoid starting an argument, calmly talk to the person in private and give them a chance to tell the truth on their own. Most bullies are cowards that hate being called on their behavior, so asserting yourself may be enough to set them straight. If the individual is argumentative and you know confrontation would lead to a bigger issue, speak to your supervisor about the situation. It is crucial to document everything, which leads to the next point.

Leave a Paper Trail

When you’re dealing with a negative situation involving a coworker, it’s important to document each interaction. Emails are preferable because it’s much harder for your coworker to lie about something that can be saved. You may also want to cc or bcc your boss to keep him or her in the loop on very important projects. Write down details of verbal interactions, including the time, who was present, and exactly what was said. Keep your records in a safe place where they can’t be accessed by anyone else.

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When Your Boss is the Bully

A bullying boss presents a sticky situation because you can’t go to your supervisor and the company is more likely to side with someone higher up on the ladder. However, your boss is likely treating coworkers in a similar fashion, so you can observe more seasoned employees to learn the best ways to handle your boss. Some bosses just love to yell and are hypercritical. They likely won’t change so you may need to decide whether or not this is an aspect of the workplace environment you can tolerate. If behavior is inappropriate and violates company policy, it may be time to report it.

Reporting a Bully

When bullying is severe, and you can’t handle the situation on your own, it’s time to enlist help. It isn’t a sign of weakness to report the bully, and you shouldn’t be afraid to reach out if behavior violates workplace policy. If you have a trustworthy supervisor, speak to him or her first. A  one-on-one talk with the boss may be enough to calm your harasser. If that isn’t an option, speak to someone in your personnel or human resources department. Your employee handbook should cover the steps to take when reporting a coworker. Be sure to bring detailed records of what has occurred to demonstrate your reasons for reporting.

Moving On

Certain workplace situations become so unhealthy that it’s best to find another position. Your boss or human resources may not be helpful, because some managers don’t have the ability or motivation to deal with a bully. Start looking for another job as soon as possible, while continuing to document the behavior of your bullying coworker. Try not to leave on a negative note, and do your best work until the end.

Every professional deals with negativity in the workplace to some extent. Unfortunately, some workers even experience outright bullying. Many times these situations can be diffused by remaining calm and professional, while avoiding the negative person as much as possible. But if the bullying or harassment is bad enough, there is nothing wrong with getting the help you need to be a happy and productive employee. For more information on dealing with a workplace bully, read The Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity on the Job