How to Deal with Office Bullies

Have you heard about the Florida fourth grader who was bullied at school for wearing his homemade University of Tennessee shirt on college day? His story has a happy ending. After his teacher posted the incident on Facebook, his story went viral and resulted in a swell of support, a college scholarship, and the college adopting his design.

Wouldn’t it be great if all bullying could be addressed by having good people take a stand against the negative behavior and the victims regarded as heroes? Sadly, many bullies don’t suffer consequences for their bad actions. According to a study performed by the Harvard Business Review, rude people at work often get away with bad behavior while their victims are viewed as the trouble makers? What?!

Sadly, bullying doesn’t stop at childhood. Some bullies create terror at work and often become managers. Earlier the New York Times examined leaders who have a demeaning or abusive style and whether their negative behavior gets better results. (News flash, abusive leadership doesn’t produce positive long-term outcomes.) In researching my book Stop Complainers and Energy Drainers, many people say that bullies are the reason they left their workplace. People who leave to take other positions have choices. Often, they are your high performers.

Bullying creates work and personal drama that you may need help to overcome. Perhaps you need a counselor, mentor or executive coach to help you with this situation. In October, I begin a virtual coaching program to address Negotiating Everything from Big Deals to Work Drama.

How to Deal with Bullies

Making others feel inferior, or finding ways to leave them out, is bullying behavior. Bullies show up in all sorts of roles at work including bosses, co-workers, vendors, and clients. If you are experiencing abusive behavior at work, you aren’t alone.

Based on the white paper research for my book Stop Complainers & Energy Drainers: How to Negotiate Work Drama to Get More Done, participants identified the most destructive type of complainer as a bullies, tyrants and even slave drivers. After looking at all the responses and characterizations, those intimidating negative people were placed into a group aptly named: Controllers.

How to Identify those Bullying Controllers

When people use profanity or intimidation to motivate others to act, they often are Controllers. Think of monster trucks or bulldozers. These people are aggressive, loud and ready to roll over you to get to their destination. Controllers want you to yield to their authority and they push hard to confront obstacles. The reasons behind their abusive approach is usually an effort to gain control when stressed, and to get things done. Interesting, right? In their push to get results, they leave victims in their wake.

Are you dealing with a bully?

Find out at Spot Your Complainer’s Type

How Bullies Affect the Workplace.

Morale and production go down when people feel intimidated. Many Controllers have no tolerance for questions or errors. Employees and coworkers cope by keeping secrets from the Controller and covering up mistakes. Creativity and risk-taking shuts down which causes top performers to leave and go work elsewhere. What Works with a Bullying Controller. You can’t use excuses, finger pointing or a detailed account of what went wrong. If you want to negotiate with a bullying Controller, remember the advice you received as a child: “Stand up to Bullies.”

  • Stand your ground. Be assertive and confident but not aggressive when you respond. Literally stand up if you are seated. Check any desire to fight back. (Bullies are always ready to rumble.) Instead stay cool and in control. Your calm responses show power and confidence. Of course leave if you feel physically threatened.

  • Deliver. Let Controllers know that you heard their problems or challenges. If you know the reasons they are stressed, provide answers. For example, indicate the progress that was made on a project or the work that’s been completed or describe a plan to remedy an issue. If you don’t know the status of a situation, tell them when you can give them an answer. “I’ll know by today at four.”

  • Let Them Decide. When possible, give Controllers the opportunity to make a decision from a narrow selection of options (that YOU give them) to move forward. Example, “Customer, Thanks for informing me of your complaint. I’m going to investigate and let you know whatever I discover by the end of the day. Would you prefer I call you on this number or another?” (Even if you might be able to get the answer in 30 minutes, leave yourself a buffer.)

You are in charge of your career and your life. Go negotiate a good one!

P.S. Interested in a keynote speech, a leadership or negotiation program, or perhaps executive coaching for leaders and high potentials? Please ask us for more information. Read more about our new virtual coaching program.