Dealing With Difficult People: The Bully, the Tormentors, the Plague

You hold the power, right now, to manage these bellicose sophomoric human bulldozers.

How YOU choose to deal with an office Bully is the key to shutting them down.The sad truth is bullying exists in the workplace - plain and simple. We have both worked for companies that do a respectable job of shutting down the office tormentors and we have worked for firms that turned a blind eye.Nothing makes us more furious than seeing co-workers - good people - pushed around for no reason other than they are really good at their jobs. It is always sadly alarming how “professionals” can stoop to such juvenile tactics.

The Bully, the Tormentors, the Plague

A single person is a Bully, a few together are what we call the Tormentors and when the office culture shifts to “Bully as the norm” - this is the Plague.The office Bully is a walking nightmare; they are disruptive, aggressive and methodical in their repetitive approach. Repetition is the easiest way to identify the bully. They scope their targets and plan their verbal assaults thoughtfully and with malice.The Bully’s behavior resembles that of a petulant child. Unable or unwilling to access their pre-frontal cortex, the Bully relies on intimidation to get their way.The Tormentors are a group that follows the lead of a Bully. Similar to the classic schoolyard bullying scenes, the Bully leads the charge and their minions follow suit.The Plague is often validated, perpetuated or simply blessed by management. The leaders of the company are usually the worst offenders.It doesn’t sound possible but these horrifying business environments do exist. After all, if your C Suite is setting the example that bullying is accepted, then a dangerous and dysfunctional office culture is what you get.

You have the power to shut them down

Whether you are dealing with one isolated Bully or the sad extreme of the Plague - there is hope and you hold the key!
  • The Bully’s number one goal is to get you emotional. Do not react! The more you react the more power you give them. We know this is really hard to do, especially when they are insulting you. Look them in the eye, smile and walk away. Then talk with a trusted coworker with whom you can vent in private. You’re gaining control.
  • Do not reciprocate. As good as it would feel to serve up some back handed compliment—don’t do it. Do NOT take a swing at a pitch in the dirt. Do not lower yourself to their level.You’re rising above it and demonstrating your professionalism.
  • Feel flattered and really good about yourself! Workplace Bullies plan their attacks on coworkers who are the best and brightest and typically the rising stars. It is their goal to drive out anyone they see as a threat to their career advancement. Bullies attack those they most fear. You understand their insecurities and are one step ahead of them.
  • Set boundaries with these jokers. See our post on Setting professional fences for ideas on how to establish boundaries with them. You’re re-writing the rules to their game - and now have the upper hand.
  • And most importantly - know what you can control and what you cannot control. There is no amount of conversation, counseling nor electroshock therapy that will help these workplace aggressors. You cannot control what a bully does or the terrible things they say, but you can control how you respond to it.Look at the bully with a different mindset, take stock that you have the power to manage them, build a strategy to shut them down and execute it - you can do it!Cheers!