Workplace Bullying

What to Do When You Work With Mean Girls (or Guys)

Female office worker castigating male office worker between cubicles
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What happens to bullies when they grow up? One would hope these mean girls and guys would stop their antics, but that may not always happen. Some of them graduate to workplace bullying. It seems like something we shouldn't even have to think about once we finish high school. Unfortunately, many people do have to think about it, and it can make the time they spend at work miserable.

A workplace bully can be your boss or your coworker.

He or she may intimidate you, embarrass you, gossip about you, keep you from getting work done or verbally abuse you. None of it is behavior you, or anyone, deserves. No one should ever make you feel uncomfortable at work. If it causes job stress, causes you to underperform at work, or forces you to quit your job, it is a threat to your livelihood.

When someone is bullying you, you can report it to the human resources department of your organization. You may be hesitant to do that if your boss is the perpetrator. That is, of course, your choice. However, if a physical threat is involved, don't waste a minute before reporting it to both your employer and the police. Besides reporting non-violent workplace bullying, here are five other ways to cope with it:

1. Seek the advice of a trusted mentor

Your mentor, or someone else with more experience than you, may have been in this situation before, or may know someone who has.

She will have insight that only comes from dealing with this and can tell you what response is most likely to work and what isn't.

2. Confront the bully

Again, if you think you might be in physical danger, do not take this approach. If you are sure the bully won't harm you, try confronting him or her.

Remember to keep it professional. Stay as calm as possible and don't yell or threaten him. You never want to sink to his level. In a very firm way, tell him you are not going to take it anymore. Make sure you sound and look confident. Stand up tall and keep your voice steady. Don't show any sign of weakness. That means no crying even if you feel like it. Some people will only choose to pick on someone who appears weaker than they are. By showing you are strong, you may put an end to his behavior. Be aware that it may not. Some bullies crave a confrontation, and this might only encourage him to come back for more.

3. Avoid involving other people

Your coworkers will see what is going on and will form opinions. Some may offer to help, but others won't acknowledge the problem. It may not be because they don't see it, but they may be making a choice not to get involved. That may be because they don't want to choose sides or make themselves the bully's focus. Leave it at that. Everyone has the right to make their own decisions.

4. Don't let the bully make you feel bad about yourself

The bully's goal is to intimidate you and diminish your self-worth. She chose you as her victim because she sees you as a threat. It is not because you have no value, but because you are very good at what you do. By intimidating you, she hopes to weaken you. By her reasoning, diminishing your self-worth will build her's up. Keep that in mind. Continue to do your job and do it well. Don't let workplace bullying cause you to fail. 

5. Make sure your boss knows you are doing a good job 

In addition to trying to make you feel bad about yourself, the bully will try to make you look bad to your boss. If your boss is the perpertrator, he may try to negatively influence his superior's opinion of you. Doing this is an essential component of his agenda as he endeavors to spread the word that you are not doing your job well. He may even go as far as to report the smallest infractions to your boss. Make sure your achievements are very visible and that you continue to make a good impression at work. As much as you'd like to be invisible to the bully, this is not the time to go under the radar.

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