When bullies and interrogators enter the workplace, chaos can ensue. These real life mean girls get a thrill from belittling others. Becoming one of their targets can make work life a horrible experience. Your stomach may churn when you hear them barging down the hallway. The stress of dealing with uncomfortable confrontations may make you contemplate skipping work or finding a new workplace. While you could cower behind your desk hoping not to be noticed, there is a better route to co-existence.
Apply the golden rule without becoming a doormat. “Do unto others” wasn’t intended to guilt followers into taking abuse. It was meant to lay a foundation of productive interaction between people. Treating bullies respectfully doesn’t mean that you have to overlook or excuse their wrongs. Understand that addressing their violations in a civil manner is applying the golden rule.
Learn what makes your bullies vulnerable to gain the upper hand. Remember that mean girls have feelings. Sure, they may be buried deep beneath layers of insecurity and hate but, they do exist. Bring your bully back to reality with a dose of her own medicine. Tactics such as not inviting a bully to a picnic or failing to acknowledge her birthday can make her re-evaluate her unflattering behavior.
Unite with other workplace victims. Come to the aid of a co-worker when she is being barraged with questions from an unrelenting interrogator. Try asking her to help you with an assignment or telling her that a supervisor requests her presence. Intervene when lunchroom bullies get carried away with their “jokes” about an absent co-worker. Try redirecting the conversation by cracking jokes of your own or changing the subject.
Be strong, but ask for help when necessary. Standing up to rude behavior often stops it. Workplace bullies are no different than bullies found on school playgrounds. Being a bully doesn’t make you fearless or indestructible. Employ strong body language during interactions as doing otherwise shows weakness. Redirect interrogation sessions to “more suitable times”. Call in your supervisor for reinforcement when your message is ignored.
Lay your feelings on the line during a private meeting. Choose a distraction-free time and place -- pay for lunch if you have to. Explain that you find some of her workplace behavior “less than nice”. Present evidence if she laughs off your assertions. Let her know that coming to her isn’t easy but is essential to your workplace sanity. Express your desire to find common ground and move forward. This approach works especially well when the bully is already your friend.
- Thinking like a bully can make you less of a target for their antics.
- Avoid becoming a bully when confronting a bully.
Mika Lo has been producing online content since 2005. The majority of her work has been published in areas such as parenting, lifestyle and health. Lo has also assisted with the development of community and hospital-based patient education programs, including creative discharge classes for new mothers and assisting underprivileged patients with medication assistance and information.