Overcoming bullying behaviors
We will talk about how do you handle workplace bullies and what kind of actions you can take in order to be able to put yourself back in control.
Before we go too far, I want to make a general statement about bullies. It isn't that people are bullies. It's that people are exhibiting bullying behaviors. No one is ever just one thing. When you think about. How you get up in the morning, you get up in the morning and you come to work trying to do your best job every single day.
Why should you believe that anything else is anything else, but that is true of everyone else you work with. To that point, this is why everyone is either the hero or the victim in their own story. They will rarely ever see themselves as the proverbial villain in their own story. This is why I suggest that we focus on behaviors versus labeling an individual as a bully because behaviors can be addressed through timely and good feedback that's being provided to the individual to help them learn from that experience and be able to help them not exhibit those behaviors in the future.
You likely know a colleague or somebody else that is engaging in bullying behavior if you regularly feel like you're either insecure, exhausted, isolated, or intimidated. It could be any or all of those. These behaviors that you're experiencing could be considered bullying. Here's some examples for us to go over and talk about.
You get scolded in public, you get criticized in public, and it's done to your, to your, from your perspective unfairly. Folks are sending aggressive or threatening emails. You're getting micromanaged for the tasks and you're being assigned projects within possible deadlines. You're being belittled or being dismissed in terms of your contributions or all the people are taking credit for the contributions that you're making.
Folks are deliberately embarrassing you in front of your manager or your teammates. Or clients, some folks may be monopolizing resources or supplies and trying to keep them all to themselves. Another example would be you're being excluded from meetings that impact your work or impact the way that you're able to deliver your work.
Well, this is where you've got several examples of types of behaviors that could be exhibited, that could be considered bullying behaviors. Something to consider when you're dealing with somebody that's exhibiting bullying behaviors. You are not responsible for their abuse. You did not do something that warranted their behavior.
This behavior tends to stem from the individual exhibiting the behavior. Because of they feel a sense of powerlessness, they feel a lack of self esteem, they may be feeling out of control in another area of their life, or they lack empathy or emotional centeredness to allow them to be able to be thoughtful in the manner in which they're behaving towards you.
The thing I would ask you is to consider that don't make their opinion of you weigh heavily on yourself. When we talk about folks that exhibit bullying behavior, sometimes you'll go up and you'll try to confront them or at least have a discussion with them and say, hey, this is what's going on. And this is where the second stage of, of the bullying behavior comes into play, which comes in the form of gaslighting or effectively try to make you question what you believe has occurred in order to make it align with them not being responsible for their own behavior.
Some examples where you might be experiencing gaslighting might be you begin doubting yourself. You have difficulty trusting others You're feeling the need to apologize for something that you didn't yourself do or you're feeling like you have something to prove over and over Again or where you're feeling like you have to provide reasoning or a point of view with an overabundance of facts These things are not about you.
Again. These are about the person exhibiting the behavior trying to get you to be accountable for their behavior. Some things you may hear that individual say might be, Oh, you're being overly dramatic. You're being overly sensitive. Oh, that's not what I meant. Oh, that's not what I heard. You this is what I took away from the meeting.
I don't know why you're thinking of me that way. You're not thinking clear. You're not thinking clearly. You're paranoid. These are all things that I personally have experienced where individuals have stated those things back to me when I've actually had conversation with folks that were exhibiting bullying type behavior.
Now, the bullying behavior itself actually can come in many, many different forms. I'll go over some of them. There's the proverbial screamer. I've had a couple of bosses where they love to raise their voice and they love to be loud, obnoxious, and berate people. In one case, I had an individual that was.
Yelling constantly, both at me and, and my team, I had to ask the team to leave the room in order to be able to have a common collected conversation with my manager in order to help them understand the impact that they were having. The next type is somebody that's two faced when you're together, they treat you as if you're a trusted confidant, but when, with their other, when they're with others, they betray your trust.
They damage your reputation or take credit for your work. I've had that situation come up with me as well, where I would provide guidance and provide subject matter expertise to individuals. And what would end up happening is that they'd say they agreed with me and that this is the right approach to go.
But when push came to shove, they effectively said, no, that's okay. I don't think this, I don't, I don't believe that at all. The next one is the criticizer. They pick on every little thing you do, no matter how small it is. That individual is never satisfied. Next archetype is a gatekeeper. These people have expert control by allowing and denying resources, meetings, or supplies, or even promotions from you in order to be able to affect change on you or to control you.
Then we have the false star. This person, as long as you're on their side, They are more than willing to be able to sing your praises, but the moment you have a disagreement about anything, they will turn on you immediately. Doesn't matter whether or not it is something that is factual, content based, or anything else, they will feel disrespected, and then they will hold you to account on that.
Irrespective of whether or not you were disrespectful or not. And the last one, the wannabe. These people believe themselves to be indispensable, but they lack the skills or expertise to make it on their own. They will demand others follow their way, be unwilling or not open to changing anything about the way that they work.
And then, if all that fails, they will find the smallest things to criticize to be able to prove their point. Now, all of that was depressing, having to go through and talk about all those types of folks that exhibit bullying type behaviors and the different methods by which they do so.
Now we're past that. What do we do about it? How do we approach this? I'll start off with saying document all your work product and let it speak for itself. Keep a yay me folder from just a practical perspective. Anyone, anytime someone says thank you or appreciates the work that you do, keep a record of it for yourself.
That way, when you go have a conversation with your manager and go have a conversation with individuals that you're trying to help them understand the situation, you have a way to be able to have a documentation trail of where things are at. When it came to dealing with One of the screamers I was working with where they were very, very factual based.
So not only did they scream, they were actually very thoughtful about how they did their screaming. What helped me be able to deal with that individual was I was able to provide them clear guidance as to here exactly is where these things occurred. Here's where the, where the ball dropped from his, from his perspective.
But then here's all the things that I did in order to be able to make it not drop to help that individual understand and then walk back their perspective. It doesn't always work, but it's a starting point. This also works really, really well with criticizers as well as the wannabe. Next one is don't take it personally, or more specifically, don't respond as if you took it personally.
Don't allow your insecurities influence how you respond. Because you know what? I'm going to be honest. It took me a long time to figure out exactly how to respond in really tough situations, and it took a lot of practice. So I'm not going to say that it's easy. This is where if you have the opportunity to be able to respond well to an individual, even when they respond poorly, it's going to reflect well on you.
And as a, as a request for me, if you know exactly how to do this every single time, let me know, because I'm going to tell you, I continue to work on this throughout my entire career, and I continue to work on it even to this day. Thank you. Time to that point, when the thing happens or when the behavior occurs.
Address the issue directly in a calm and assertive manner. Have the conversation with the individual. And if that doesn't work, speak with their manager. If that doesn't work, speak with their manager. Use the management chain to your best benefit to help you handle incorrect behavior. If the manager is the one that's exhibiting the bullying behavior, speak with a peer manager or their manager.
This is where you can use terms like, I need to ask you to be in the cone of silence. Effectively, don't share what I'm about to share. Or, use another model I've used is, I need advice on how to handle a hypothetical situation where you then remove all the names. This gives you a way to be able to, while not stating who exactly is doing it, but still try to find a way to ask for assistance without directly asking for assistance.
Next one, be kind. Kindness always wins. Uh, I, this is where I will continue to believe this and continue to do this. If your actions are neutral and true to the organization's goals, You will come out on top almost every single time. Next one, document what happens and share it with the appropriate parties.
Document dates, times, locations, who else was in attendance. For those information workers, use email to your benefit and send out notes when something was contentious. Be the one that actually wrote it down first, because the first one to write it down wins. Next, remember that your well being is the most important thing.
Keep centered and have a positive self image. Go get the help that you think that you need. Go talk to somebody, go talk to a peer, go talk to a coworker, go talk to family members, go talk to whom you think you need to talk to, to make sure that you remain centered in this entire process. Dealing with bullying behavior is no small matter, and it just stinks no matter how well you cut it.
So, make sure that you're taking care of yourself through all of this. And lastly, if after you've exhausted all of these methods, and you've exhausted all of these things, and the bullying behavior continues, And it's for an unbearable amount of time for you. The sad reality is finding a new role. It might be the better path to put you in a place where you can be in a happier place than saying where you're at, because your personal well being is the most important thing here.
If you ask me, well, how long should I wait? It really depends on the seriousness of the bullying behavior, as well as what avenues you've taken up and tried to figure this out, what actions you have taken, and then also what your personal threshold is. Your life experiences will be different than mine, so I can't give you a concrete answer.
This is where you can self assess and see what the right place is. I had that situation where I had a manager who was a streamer and was also streaming racial epithets. That was it. I, like, I didn't even wait a moment after it happened. The moment it happened. Literally 15 seconds later, I resigned. So for me, that was it.
I was done. So understand the severity will make an impact on how high or low your personal threshold is. Now, what do you do if you see someone else exhibiting these behaviors or someone else going through this? What should you do? As an individual contributor, if you've observed something, speak with the colleague that it happened to and offer them support.
As a witness, if they decide to report this to somebody's manager or to HR, make sure that you let them know that you are there to support them. Also offer to be available to join them in meetings or to limit one on one interactions with the, with the individual that's exhibiting the bullying behavior.
Now, let's say you're a manager and someone comes to you and provides you feedback that someone is exhibiting bullying behavior. What do you do? First off, take it seriously and demonstrate your commitment to a safe and healthy working environment. This doesn't mean, oh, that's just the way they are.
That's just their personality. I'm thinking maybe you misunderstood them. I'm not sure whether or not that's really something that they meant to say. Don't make excuses. Listen, acknowledge, and tell them that you're committed to a safe and healthy working environment and thank them for sharing it. Not everyone is going to be comfortable in bringing something up.
So, taking the time to acknowledge it and being there and thanking them will allow them to feel comfortable coming to you again if the, if the behavior continues. As a manager, look at what is being described. You may, you might have a person with bullying behaviors in your midst and not realize it because not everyone will be comfortable in saying something if they are being bullied.
And if you see the behavior, call it out. Signal to everyone else in the room that you do not support that kind of behavior. And then finally, if it's someone on your team that's doing the bullying behavior, help the rest of the team by correcting the behavior immediately. While we want to be able to support our people as much as possible, it is even more critical that we don't blindly support team members.
Because eventually the check will come due. And when that behavior comes out and then becomes discovered, it will reflect poorly on you, especially if people have provided you the feedback. Today, we've talked about different types of bullying behavior. We've talked about the different overarching ways that that bullying behavior could be delivered.
We've also talked about some ways that you as an IC or individual contributor can safeguard yourself as well as talked about managers. What can you do in order to be able to try to minimize the impact of bullying behavior in the workplace? One last point before we wrap this up. I cannot emphasize enough how important your personal well being is.
Make sure that you're taking care of yourself and make sure you're not taking to heart what these individuals and how they're doing it to you. Their behavior is not a reflection of you or the manner in which you conduct yourself. It's a reflection on them. Let their behavior show how badly they are behaving and let that speak for itself.
Don't let it impact you in your day to day life and affect how you feel about yourself on a day to day basis.