How to Manage a Bully

Working with a bully can quickly erode your resilience. Here are several ways you can manage a bully in your workplace.

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Unfortunately, workplace bullying — repeated and unreasonable behavior directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety — is all too common. In times of chronic stress or constant uncertainty, which we are seeing now with the global pandemic, workplace bullying may increase.

Working with a bully can quickly erode your resilience due to the chronic stress it generates. Here are some suggestions on how to handle a bully in your workplace:

Stand Up For Yourself

Bullies count on others being passive or afraid. Most back off if their targets stand up for themselves. Show the bully that he made a mistake targeting you. Communicate that you can defend yourself without being aggressive or mean in return.

Be Confident

Bullies quickly identify people they can control and manipulate. To help maintain a calm, cool composure, take a few deep breaths before your conversation. Try your best to prevent your emotions and anger from being directed at the bully. To avoid looking nervous, insecure, or defeated, prepare for interactions with the bully. Practice the one or two things you want to say to the bully. Remind yourself that your feelings are valid. No matter what happens during your discussion, try your best to stay steady and remain professional.

Stay in Your Sphere of Control

While you have no control over what other people say or do, you do have control over your response. If you can’t calmly address the bully, then postpone confronting her.

Walk Away

If the bully’s behavior is extreme (yelling, abusive language), walk away or end the virtual conversation. Tell the person that you will continue the conversation only if the person is willing to communicate professionally. Walk away or end the conversation if you start to lose control.

Be Specific

When addressing the bully’s behavior, have particular examples ready of how she has offended you. If you don’t have detailed examples to point to, it may look like you are overreacting.

Continue to Work Hard

Do not allow bullying to derail your work. Focus on your tasks and don’t spend too much time talking with other co-workers about what is happening. Do not let the turmoil the bully creates to cause you to fall behind on projects.

Get Help

Immediately report the bullying to the bully’s boss. If the boss won’t or is unable to address the bad behavior, report it to your HR office or someone else who has the authority to take action. Keep a detailed record of all the bullying incidents, including dates, times, and witnesses. Keep all of your electronic correspondence with the bully.

Don’t Blame Yourself

Remind yourself that your colleague chose to bully you and others in the workplace and you are doing nothing wrong. Don’t let the bully shift the blame for his bad behavior.

Look for Another Job

If the bullying is becoming unbearable or having a significant negative impact on your well-being, consider looking for another position. Searching for alternatives will give you some control over the situation even if you stay where you are.

How have you responded to workplace bullying?

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