The Ultimate Guide to Handling Office Bullies

When my daughter was in first grade, she came home complaining about a girl who bullied her. I went to the teacher and explained and asked that she keep an eye on the situation. A few days later the teacher reported that my daughter was mistaken–there was no bad behavior.

Upon further questioning, the teacher admitted that she stood in the center of the playground during recess so she could keep an eye on everything. But, there had been no pushing or shoving! I couldn’t believe I needed to explain to a teacher that mean girls use words to torment others, not pushing and shoving.

Even by the ripe old age of 7, this particular mean girl had learned how to behave around the “boss.” Imagine how much more time the 35-year-old in your office has had to perfect her (or his) bullying craft! It’s no wonder that bullying often goes unnoticed and uncorrected. Managers, like teachers, are busy putting out the fires they can easily see and the subtle torment goes by unobserved. And sometimes, managers are the bullies.

Preston Ni, at Psychology Today, identified five types of bullying adults face. They are:

To keep reading, click here: The Ultimate Guide to Handling Office Bullies

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10 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Handling Office Bullies

  1. In my last position, I managed a dept of 30 contractors. It was an unbelievable group of people, and they worked so hard. We worked in parallel to a dept of 10 employees, and I experienced #s 1, 3, 4, and 5 from different members of the employee group. Shockingly, it did not seem to phase #5, that everything was documented in emails (that they wrote). #1 physically cornered me in a small meeting room at 6 months pregnant and was leaning over the desk shoving his finger in my face, screaming, and swearing (he had had a disagreement with one of my team members). Their manager was overwhelmed and took no steps to reshape the team; he was shuffled to another dept. It was so dysfunctional that I ended up resigning when we decided to relocate for my husband’s job. It made the decision easy, even though I hated to leave my group. I had never encountered anything like that before, let alone in such high amounts from within such a small group.

    1. So thank you, Evil HR lady, for your article. Managers need more training for how to deal with this!

    Bullying causes huge amounts of damage. It also kills morale if management does nothing about it. The good employees in those non-responsive workplaces will absolutely find a way to leave.

  3. If “bullying” is defined as broadly as you just did, then it is not always wrong. In fact, such behavior as not talking to someone or not including them in social invitations is often the only way to defend oneself against people who are simply too demanding.

    Anyone who intervenes to stop “bullying” without first at least trying to discover the right and wrong of the situation is part of the problem. And this is as true in the office as it is among kids.

    1. I don’t think anyone’s proposing not investigating the situation. However, some actions — such as the use of physical force or name calling — have to be stopped immediately, before they can be investigated.

  4. “[M]ean girls use words to torment others, not pushing and shoving.” Ouch! While it’s totally correct that bullying is not limited to physical force, “mean girls” sometimes resort to “pushing and shoving” — and worse — and “mean boys” sometimes “use words to torment others, not pushing and shoving.” Bullying is bullying, and no gender has a monopoly on a specific means of doing so.

  5. I didn’t want to speak up at my last job because I didn’t realize deliberate social exclusion was – item number 4 – a form of bullying. It left me feeling very very alone, but because our mutual supervisor was offsite (well, down the block at a different building), there was nothing for her to see until I had to swallow my pride and admit it was really taking a toll on me.

    They never really fully embraced me, but they stopped being exclusive after I told her. And I felt bad saying so, as a man being excluded by a group of outwardly friendly women, but they really were talking about me behind my back (as I found out from other staff) and it made it hard for me to go into work.

  6. I took an entire course on bullying and know the definition – it has to be prolonged and affecting the victim’s quality of life. It’s not always someone who is “insecure” like many people say! There are actually a lot of bullies who appear extroverted and overconfident.

    This should be watched out for keenly in interviews when hiring to avoid toxic workers entering the workplace and screwing stuff up. Here’s more on that:

  7. As a child, you also hope that the bullies will grow up but as you get older you discover that they rarely do so. I found this article really important and gave great transferrable skills.

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