How to handle a bully at work

A reader reached out to me through our Twitter channel. She wanted to know how to deal with a bully at work. Apparently, there is a manager from another department who consistently raises his voice in meetings to angerly intimidate other people into not disagreeing with him. It is creating a hostile and fearful work environment.

Here are some steps you can take for putting a stop to it.

How to deal with bullying coworkers

Start with a conversation. Sometimes people don’t know how their behaviour may be impacting others. The very first thing you should try to do is talk to your bullying colleague. Do it in the moment, when an incident occurs. “Look, X, I have to tell you that I feel like my opinions aren’t being heard at the moment and that you may be overreaching into my department’s responsibilities. Let’s take a step back and assess how our respective teams can best each contribute to the success of this project.”

Document everything. You should keep a record of any kind of abusive behaviour. Save emails, quotes, events, and dates. If you have to end up going over her head, then you will need to be specific about the incidents, precisely what took place, and the impact that it had.

Gather your allies. You mentioned that there were others negatively impacted by this coworker. Find out if they have specific incidents of their own to report. Will they back you up if and when the time comes to escalate to a formal complaint?

Do the math. Have good people left the company because of this manager? Staff turnover is expensive. One person dragging down the working environment becomes more of a liability to a company than an asset – regardless of how personally productive they might be.

And that is the math you need to do for your employer: because of the toll this person is taking on the overall morale (and therefore productivity), X is a liability for the company. Her behaviour, if unchanged, is costing us more than the value she brings.

Cut your losses. Sometimes you just have to leave. If your boss doesn’t care that employee behaviour is negatively affecting the team’s self-esteem and happiness at work, that should tell you everything you need to know about who you’re working for. You need a job, but you need something else more.

You shouldn’t have to leave your job because of someone else’s negative behaviour, but staying in a hostile environment can take its toll on your self-esteem and your health. It might not be worth it. Living well is the best revenge, as they say. The situation will look much better in hindsight from your new job where you are happy and successful.

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