No Room For Toxicity: 6 Hacks To Deal With A Workplace Bully

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workplace bully
8 min read

What do you call someone who tries to steal your thunder at work, humiliates you without a concrete reason, and intimidates you every single day at your workplace? A Bully. While there are ways to deal with a workplace bully, it is important to first define who a bully is. 

A couple of years ago, my manager befriended me, only to steal my ideas for pitch meetings. He would often take credit for my share of work and humiliate me if his stolen ideas were rejected. 

As a novice in a production house, I assumed this to be normal manager behaviour. The moral: if someone tries to belittle you at your workplace (irrespective of what their gender is), then brace yourself, because you are under the threat of a workplace bully, and these are serious symptoms. 

According to a study conducted by the University of Phoenix, almost 75 % of employees become victims of bullying at the workplace at some point in time. Bullying includes teasing, exclusion, and unreasonable work demands. It can be spiteful, offensive, or intimidating, and is directed at one person or a few people. 

Workplace or institutional bullying also happens when a workplace accepts, allows, and even encourages bullying to take place.

It might include unrealistic production goals, forced overtime, or singling out those who can’t keep up. 

Types Of Workplace Bully Personalities To Beware Of: 

1. The Screamer

These bullies are very loud and seek pleasure in humiliating others. Thriving on the notion that other employees fear them, Screamers are the most common types of bullies found in the workplace. 

workplace bully

2. The Two-Headed Snake

Beware of this category as they will first befriend you, find a way to know about your shortcomings, and then belittle you in front of other employees when you’re away. A two-headed snake is the quickest to steal credits and mar your reputation, only to keep themselves in the good books of the manager. 

3. The Critic 

There’s a thin line between criticism and bullying. For example, objective and constructive criticism that is directly related to workplace behaviour or job performance is not considered bullying. 

But criticism meant to intimidate, humiliate, or single someone out without reason is bully behavior. This kind of bully will bring you down even when you’re not at fault. Their purpose is to cripple other employees by speaking ill about them. 

4. The Attention Seeker

This personality wants to be the center of attention at all times. They try to remain in the good books of other employees as well as the manager. Their most toxic trait is that they try to relate all of their workplace mistakes to something that’s going wrong in their personal life, to seek sympathy and control. 

5. The Manipulator 

Manipulators tend to surround themselves with employees who are willing to do their dirty work in exchange for moving up the ranks with them. These bullies are great at their work, but you won’t be allowed to talk back or argue with them as they are hot-headed and may call you out in front of others, even when it isn’t your fault. 

workplace bully

There are ways to deal with toxic bullies and toxic companies that allow the manifestation of bullies. If you’ve made it so far, read on to know how to deal with workplace bullies: 

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6 Ways To Deal With Workplace Bullies: 

1. Set Clear Boundaries

It is important to recognise that you’re being bullied, and nip it in the bud. Set a clear boundary with the manager or colleague who is trying to demean you for no reason. They must know that you’re not willing to absorb bully behaviour and give in to their ways. 

Learn how to say no to an unreasonable amount of work that is dumped on your plate. Set physical boundaries by not sitting next to the bully, or travelling in the elevator with them, or even staying alone in the same conference room as them. Be aware of how much personal information you share with them as well. 

3. Document The Bullying 

A bully doesn’t just strike once. The behaviour is repetitive. This gives you several chances to document the bullying you go through. Keep track of all bullying actions – either in writing or by slyly recording them. Gather evidence for yourself by noting the date and time. 

workplace bully

Also, take note of the others who were present in the room while you were being bullied. Create an alibi for yourself. If you have ever received threatening notes or messages, preserve them for the record. 

It is ideally better to have conversations with colleagues via official communication platforms such as email or team apps like Slack or Microsoft Teams. This will help in documenting evidence accurately too. 

3. Confront The Bully

Confrontation is never easy. But if you can muster up some courage or maybe bring along a trustworthy witness with you, then head straight to your bully.

Sternly express the fact that you are not going to tolerate their behaviour and that they need to stop, or the repercussions won’t be pleasing. 

P.S: More often than not, it is difficult to address workplace bullying because of a preconceived fear of losing the job. One tends to believe that no one else in the company would believe them if they raised their voice against their manager. Confrontation is important, but not before you are comfortable coming forward. 

4. Report The Incident

Whether or not you have ample evidence against the bully, start with talking to the HR of your company. Reporting the incident is the first step to standing up for yourself. 

workplace bully

Unfortunately, no law or legislation in India provides protection against bullying that is non-sexual. However, almost every company today has a committee that practices a zero-tolerance policy for bullying. Take it up with them. 

5. Review Work Policies 

The best defense a company can have against workplace bullying is a worded policy that prohibits any type of bullying. 

An anti-bullying policy must include a clear definition of what is considered bullying, an outline of how employees can report bullying, including guidance on what to do when your manager is the bully. 

There must be a thorough investigation process, a ‘no retaliation’ clause to help employees feel safe in the workplace, and a list of consequences for violating the anti-bullying rules. This is the best way for companies to make their employees feel like they can count on them

6. Reach Out To Others 

We all have a workplace bestie that we can reach out to. Talking to your loved ones about bullying can help, as they may be able to offer solutions that you aren’t able to think of.

workplace bully

Getting bullied affects one’s mental health, so seeking a therapist’s help might be another good call. They provide professional support and help you explore ways to cope with the effects of bullying, while also helping you stand up for yourself. 

Bullies are productivity killers and potential threats to a company. And the scapegoat who experiences bullying has a decreased morale and loyalty towards working in the company. This further results in higher absenteeism, reduced productivity, efficiency, and will to work. 

Taking steps to prevent workplace bullying can benefit organisations as well as the mental health of employees. Keep these hacks handy for the next time an employee chooses to be toxic to you. Because who else will stand up for you, if not you? 

If you’ve ever been bullied in the workplace, tell us how you combatted it, in the comments below! 

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A writer, a solo traveller, and a moody chef- that pretty much sums up Oindrilla's life. When not doing any of these things, she is found mothering her five pets, binge-watching Bollywood classics, and living the characters in her head. She believes that storytelling is the greatest catalyst of human bonds, and travels to explore and pen her thoughts down. Her life runs on daal-chaawal and chai, and mentally she is always in Himachal.

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