Victim of workplace bullying

How to handle workplace bullying in the moment

Office idiots – or those who get off on workplace bullying. We all know one, perhaps work with one now 🙁

I’m not talking about incompetent people who are out of their depth, but those who aggressively use their behaviour or comments to bully others. Let’s be clear, incompetence and bullying can overlap in the same ‘fun person’ that no one really likes having on the team. 

They may be just dim or more egregiously poorly behaved – either way, you must challenge those who love a bit of workplace bullying when their behaviour strays over the line. Plus, handling them in the moment sends a strong message, not just about how wrong their behaviour or assumptions are – but to those around the meeting table who may have also wondered what the heck just happened! Plus, as you progress your career, being able to manage difficult people is a big part of that 21st-century skill set that your colleagues, employers and clients will increasingly expect. Perhaps not surprisingly, it comes up on virtually event I speak on, even when the topic is nowhere near workplace bullying!

The good news is that if you work with one of these office idiots there are a few things you can do in the moment to combat workplace bullying (so you aren’t still stewing about what you should have said days later yourself!):  This is particularly important for those of us who are prone to having others take credit for our work.

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1. ‘Innocently’ ask them to explain – ‘What do you mean by that?’ – sometimes acting like you don’t understand what they said can deflate a situation.

2. Assume good intent to give them the benefit of the doubt – ‘I’m sure it wasn’t your intention but…’ It gives them a way to back away from the poor behaviour and save face.

3. Even if you feel like it’s constant, don’t use ‘never’ or ‘always’ when talking about someone’s behaviour. Give them specific and recent examples. 

4. Use language/accent/hearing as the excuse to question: ‘Can you repeat that?” or ‘Sorry, I didn’t catch that?’ Again another chance for them to rethink their poor choice of behaviour.

5. Depending on what their comments/behaviour in the workplace bullying were – or how willing they are to make amends, don’t be afraid to move up the ‘food chain’. To stop workplace bullying, after the meeting, speak to their line manager or your line manager about the impact their behaviour has on your – and potentially other colleagues as well.  And it can also be escalated to HR as well. Every organisation has a different culture, but your HR department should have policies in place if things need to be taken further.

Brass tacks, don’t ignore the bad behaviour. After all, as I tell my audiences and my executive coaching clients certainly agree, the behaviour you ignore is the behaviour you condone. Challenge the behaviour, and don’t let the ‘office idiots’ get worse!

To help you have the ‘gumption’ to challenge poor behaviour, have a look at my video below with some life-changing exercises that build confidence.

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