How to Handle Bullies at Work


This post is part of “Bully No More,” an editorial series hosted by the Fort Worth Moms Blog.


bullies at workBullies are everywhere and in all walks of life. There’s just no avoiding them. Unfortunately, we’ve all been bullied at some point, we’ve all seen someone else get bullied, and we’ve all been bullied at some point

Once I graduated high school, I thought the bully phase of life was over. Boy, was I wrong! I quickly learned that some of the worst bullies exist in the work place.

The Subtle Bully

I met my first workplace bully after I graduated college at my first “grown up job.” We will refer to this person as Sue. Sue was really nice. We had the same position and worked closely together. I thought of Sue as a friend. I helped her with projects and she helped me with mine. For weeks, Sue would tell me that I could mark projects A, B, C, and even D off my list because she had done them for me. She would tell me she was so thankful for the work that I did for her. I marked the tasks she said she had completed off of my list and didn’t think twice about it.

One day, my boss called me into his office. I walked in bright eyed and bushy tailed. As soon as I sat down, notebook and pen in hand, he cut right to the chase, “Why haven’t projects A, B, C, D, and E been completed? It’s been weeks. What have you been doing with your time? What have I been paying you for?” I was stunned. I stuttered, “I . . . I . . . I don’t know . . . .” If I could have pressed rewind, I would have! twenty-three-year-old me should have thought before speaking. Before I could say more, my boss immediately went on to tell me I was “lackadaisical,” I had no sense of urgency, and I needed to get with Sue to go over how to manage my day and tasks. I was to start emailing my boss every morning a list of tasks that I was going to be working on, every afternoon before lunch, and before I went home with tasks that I had completed.

I had a million things going through my mind. I ultimately decided that I would deal with it. I had no tangible proof that Sue told me she had completed these projects, and I didn’t check behind her to make sure they were done correctly or even done at all. Also, Sue’s name was on all of the projects that I had completed for her. I had no proof of the work that was actually mine.

When I confronted Sue about the situation, she said “it sounded like my problem” and that I should have done my own work to begin with. She turned into a completely different person. Sue was cold, manipulative, and not at all my friend. I was furious, hurt, and utterly shocked.

A couple of weeks later, Sue was promoted. I found a new job.

The Boisterous Bully

The second workplace bully I encountered was completely different from Sue. We will refer to this person as Ken. Ken was loud and had no problem telling people that their ideas “were stupid” or “just plain dumb.” Ken would always cut off people when they were speaking. He openly bragged about how much more money he made than his employees TO his employees. He would also say cruel things to people without blinking an eye. I will never forget walking into work when I was about 20 weeks pregnant, and Ken looked at me and very loudly said, “Wow, if I didn’t know you were pregnant, I’d be worried about you! You look so fat!” I knew better than to say the first words that popped in my mind. I gritted my teeth, forced a smile, and asked Ken if I could talk to him in private.

How to Handle Bullies at Work

  • Treat others the way you want to be treated.
  • Stand up for yourself. Be firm, professional, and polite.
  • Try using this formula when confronting your bully: “When you do ____ it makes me feel ____. I’d appreciate it if in the future you ____.” For example, in the instance with Ken, I said “When you make comments about my weight, it makes me feel extremely insecure. I’d appreciate it if in the future you didn’t make comments about my weight.” He said “Okay.” I said “Thank you!” And that was that.
  • DOCUMENT EVERYTHING! I cannot stress this enough. Even if you feel it’s minuscule, document it. Things add up! Make an excel spreadsheet with the date and description of each incidence. (Type exactly what happened and exactly what was said; it’s best not to paraphrase.) This will help you build your case.
  • EMAIL! Always have email documentation of conversations with your coworkers. Even if someone comes over to tell you something is done, send a quick email confirming what was said.
  • Talk to your manager or HR about what’s going on. Bring the documentation of all of the incidences and any email correspondence that backs up your case.

I learned a lot from both Sue and Ken. I hope through what I learned with my experiences I can help you with your work place bully.

Have you been bullied at work? If so, how did you handle it? What advice would you give to others?

Bully no more


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