Have you had to deal with an office bully?
Do you suffer one now?
Is there someone you fear and try to avoid in your office?
This post is for you if you feel intimidated at the workplace.
Bullying can come from anywhere; It could be your manager, coworkers, your client or even a vendor. It can show up in the form of threats, uncalled for anger, tantrums, rebuke, being ridiculed or judged, made to feel isolated, harassed.
Working with over-aggressive, ultra dominant, abusive people can be a miserable experience, and If left unaddressed, it is likely to make you fearful, anxious and exhausted. It gets trickier if you work in a toxic and intimidating environment and link your identity strongly to your career.
Numerous factors can contribute to such dysfunctional behaviours, including parental programming, childhood experiences, trauma, early disappointments, abuse, misplaced beliefs, unmanageable pressure, personal insecurities, jealousy, fear.
People who intimidate and treat others disrespectfully continue to exist and sometimes thrive in organizations despite stringent HR policies, employee training and education programs.
In such situations, there are two sets of behaviours at play
One person is dominant, forceful, aggressive, demanding and possibly disrespectful, while the other is tolerating, nervous, anxious, compliant, fearful and blaming themself.
Like all challenges in life, this, too, needs to be understood and not feared. So here are eight actions you can take to manage your emotional, mental well being and claim back your power.
Recognize your faulty thinking
Fallacy Number 1
“They are stronger/more powerful than me and can ruin my career”.
Just because someone appears more powerful or has more authority does not mean that they can ruin your career. Reflect and ask yourself if the situation is as dire as you imagine, or is your fear distorting your thinking?
Imagining extreme and catastrophic outcomes pulls you down and are not helpful. Instead, your efforts should be to develop a clearer perspective and understanding of the situation.
Fallacy Number 2
“I am weak and incapable of handling this”.
By visualizing yourself as the victim, you are making it harder to face the bully. While you may not have the same authority or power as them, you can always choose an empowering attitude and outlook.
Avoid justifying poor behaviour.
In coaching conversations, clients sometimes tell me that the other person only intimidates them because they care deeply about the company. A few even tell me that the bully is not bad at heart and attribute the behaviour to high pressure, working with a lousy boss or an aggressive work culture.
Remember this, irrespective of reasons, poor behaviour is just that and cannot be justified. The moment you start doing so, you are silently enabling and encouraging the intimidating behaviour.
And what’s more, someone else may suffer twice as much at the hands of this bully because you unwittingly encourage them.
Calibrate your expectations
If you wish, hope, and wait for the bully to become aware of their behaviours, develop remorse and change, you are in for a massive disappointment. Instead, bring the focus back to you and explore ways to respond to the situation better.
“This too shall pass.”
Here is another line of thinking that’s futile, frustrating, and best avoided because it can be harmful in this context. The more you tolerate intimidation, abuse, the longer you are likely to experience stress and fear. It could also impact your levels of confidence and self-esteem.
Work on yourself
We all need someone to lean on in our hard times. So be proactive and build a network of friends/helpful colleagues who can hear you out and make you feel supported. Also, practice speaking up, one conversation, one day at a time. Unless you speak up for yourself, you are unlikely to see changes.
Living with fear and anxiety is not healthy in the long run. If you have tried all you can to resolve the issue and find it beyond you, maybe it’s time to seek help from your seniors, the human resources team or a mentor within the organization.
Most mature organizations are conscious of this need and have helpful systems, processes in place. Reach out, state your challenge in an objective manner, present facts, data on hand and ask them to intervene.
Pay attention to your emotional and mental health, do not ignore signs of exhaustion, burnout and stress. Your well being is your biggest asset and needs to be nurtured, nourished. Reach out and seek support from a Therapist, Counsellor or Coach to manage your stress, achieve clarity and build your confidence.
Make the hard call
Sometimes, despite all your efforts and the intervention of Human Resources, you may notice that the intimidation and bullying do not stop.
You can now choose to stay and continue to suffer or take the risk, quit your role, maybe even the firm, and seek a better work culture elsewhere. But, of course, there are consequences to both, and you have to make the call of choosing the one that’s appropriate for you.
The world is full of people wanting to be helpful and supportive; it also has difficult people. Seek and surround yourself with the former. Avoid the latter. By taking charge of your growth and well being, you can sustainably enable your success.
And if as you read this, it occurs to you that you are the bully in someone else’s life, please avoid the intimidating behaviours. Understand your frustrations, find a healthier way to communicate your needs and seek support if necessary to overcome your derailing behaviours. You deserve to be happy too.
Points to Ponder
- What is causing me fear, stress at the workplace?
- What part of this is beyond my span of control?
- Who can help resolve, address this for me?
- What about me has to change to build more fulfilling relationships?
- Who can help me feel cared for, nurtured and nourished?
- The Inner Game of Stress – Timothy Gallwey
- The Art of Power – Thich Nhat Hanh
- Mindset -Carol Dweck
- Emotional Intelligence 2.0 – Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves