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Written by Rolf BaxRolf Bax

How to deal with a bully in the office

12 min read
How to deal with a bully in the office
In this guide we'll show you how to handle a bully in the office, according to science and advice from industry experts.

It’s a real shame when a perfectly-good job is made intolerable by a workplace bully. You don’t even have to be the bully’s intended victim to suffer the negative impact of  toxic behavior . When one person sets out to ruin another’s day, the whole team loses. But let’s focus back in on that victim. Around one in five Americans is the victim of bullying. Around one-third of those never speak up about it, and two-thirds end up losing their job or their present role to get away from the bully. 

If you’re a victim of bullying, there’s a 40% chance your health will be harmed by the experience. Bullying has been linked to musculoskeletal complaints, fibromyalgia, and cardiovascular symptoms, as well as anxiety, bad sleep, and depression – for the bully as well as the bullied!

But there is help at hand. Researchers have studied bullying in baboon society and connected it to the drive to survive among the over-developed monkeys of the modern workplace. They’ve figured out what that means within a human society today. And they’ve come up with some very effective ways of dealing with the situation.

The most important step is to talk. Acknowledging the problem to somebody else (such as a co-worker or someone in your private life) is a huge pressure release, and helps you shift the sense of shame that often comes with being bullied. Or you could consider talking openly about it at work. Naming the bully or drawing attention to his behavior can tilt the balance of power and puncture his ability to dominate you. On a more technical level, it is essential to start documenting the bully’s behavior as soon as possible. Bullies can be very manipulative. If you need to mount a case against them later, it will help to have a record of their abuse, including anything they’ve written to you and the times, dates, and witnesses of verbal or physical encounters.

If you are the witness to somebody else being bullied, there are different techniques you can use to help the victim, depending on how confident you feel and how safe the situation is. The simplest is to label the bullying there and then. Calling out a bully shifts the dynamic in the office. Rather than the bully’s evolutionary drive, the needs of the group take precedence. The bully is pressured to conform to the collective ideals of empathy, compassion, and equality – and if he continues to bully, he is seen as a threat to the integrity of the group.

We’ve compiled a thorough visual guide on dealing with workplace bullies. Whether you’re the victim, witness, or office manager – or even if you’re concerned that you might be a workplace bully yourself – you’ll find explanations and positive actions to take in our new infographic. 

How to deal with a bully in the office
How to deal with a bully in the office

 

Don’t let an office bully destroy your health, happiness, and career. The power to neutralize your tormentor begins with you, and it all starts with a conversation. You’ve got this.

Sources

1. Workplace Bullying Institute. (2017). 2017 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey. workplacebullying.org

2. Raypole, C. (2019). How to Identify and Manage Workplace Bullying. healthline.com 

3. Scott, J. (2018). Should You Name Your Abuser?. greatist.com

4. Rodríguez-Muñoz, A., Moreno-Jiménez, B., & Sanz-Vergel, A. I. (2015). Reciprocal relations between workplace bullying, anxiety and vigor: a two-wave longitudinal study. Anxiety, Stress & Coping: An International Journal. 1 (31).

5. Ziv, S. (2019). Don’t Let Workplace Bullies Win—Here’s How to Spot Them and Stop Them. themuse.com

6. Sansone, R. and Sansone, L. (2015). Workplace Bullying: A Tale of Adverse Consequences. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience. 12 (1-2).

7. Zawadzki, M, Smyth, J, and Costigan, H. (2015). Real-Time Associations Between Engaging in Leisure and Daily Health and Well-Being. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 49 (4). 

8. Gavrilets, S. (2012). On the evolutionary origins of the egalitarian syndrome. PNAS. 109 (35).

9. Athalye, V, Santos, F, Carmena, J, and Costa, R. (2018). Evidence for a neural law of effect. Science. 359 (6379). 

10. Mishna, F, Khoury-Kassabri, M, Schwan, K, Wiener, J, Craig, W, Beran, T, Pepler, T, and Daciuk, J. (2016). The contribution of social support to children and adolescents' self-perception: The mediating role of bullying victimization. Children and Youth Services Review. 63.

11.Littman, J and Hershon, M. (2009). I Hate People!: Kick Loose from the Overbearing and Underhanded Jerks at Work and Get What You Want Out of Your Job. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

12. Einarsen, S, Raknes, B, and Matthiesen, S. (1994). Bullying and harassment at work and their relationships to work environment quality: An exploratory study. European Work and Organizational Psychology. 4 (4). 

13. Hoel, H, and Cooper, C L. (2000). Destructive Conflict and Bullying at Work. Manchester School of Management, University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.

14. Cherry, K. (2019). The Law of Effect in Psychology. verywellmind.com

15. Ni, P. (2017). 5 Ways That Adults Bully Each Other. psychologytoday.com 

16. Cocchimiglio, S. (2019). What is Verbal Bullying and How Does it Happen?. betterhelp.com

17. National Centre Against Bullying. Types of Bullying. ncab.org

Blumenthal, J, Smith, P, and Hoffman, B. (2012). Is Exercise a Viable Treatment for Depression? ACSMs Health Fit J. 16 (4). 

Einarsen, S and Skogstad, A. (1996). Bullying at work: Epidemiological findings in public and private organizations. European Work and Organizational Psychology. 5 (2).

Salin, D. (2008). The prevention of workplace bullying as a question of human resource management: measures adopted and underlying organizational factors. Scandinavian Journal of Management

Shiroma, E and Lee, I. (2010). Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health. Circulation. 122 (7). 

Slepian, M, Halevy, N, and Galinsky, A. (2018). The Solitude of Secrecy: Thinking About Secrets Evokes Goal Conflict and Feelings of Fatigue, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 00(0).

Gordon, S. (2019). 10 Types of Kids Most Likely to Be Bullied. verywellfamily.com

Dimitrov, S, Hulteng, E, and Hong, S. (2017). Inflammation and exercise: Inhibition of monocytic intracellular TNF production by acute exercise via β2-adrenergic activation. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. 61.

 

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