Denial and indifference are a workplace bully's greatest weapons. In organizations that lack a clear stance on nonviolent harassment, employees are more likely to turn a blind eye and let bullies terrorize fellow co-workers. In such cases, victims are forced to deal with a workplace bully alone, resulting in emotional stress and lower productivity. If you're a target of bullying, identifying the type of aggressor may help you overcome the situation.
Two-faced bullies show fake sincerity toward people in a position to serve their interests, making it difficult to get support from higher-ups. Other employees may question your judgment or motives when you describe the bullying behavior because the offenders are so skilled at being deceitful and charming.
An openly hostile co-worker is one of the worst types of workplace bully because he's usually on a mission to make you feel small, scared and lonely. These aggressive bullies are frequently in leadership roles, but they lack the skills to communicate and command respect through productive means. Egomaniacs refuse to admit they're ever wrong and take pleasure in insulting and humiliating victims for an audience.
Not every workplace bully is overtly aggressive. Insecure people who gain leadership roles often use intimidation to cover up problems, instead of confronting them. Gutless bosses only care about saving themselves, and selling you out is easier than taking a stand. Bullying managers may take unreasonable action against you to prevent you from filing a complaint and justify unfair treatment by claiming they're just following the rules.
A malicious gossip looks for every opportunity to badmouth you and ruin your reputation. Some rumormongers are hard to recognize because they pretend everything is great when you're around, while others openly use verbal abuse and manipulation to make you believe you have no power or value in the company. Gossips are highly destructive and can destroy your character without you knowing anything about it.
Relentless tormentors are driven by more than self-interest; they aren't happy until the victim's professional life is devastated in every way. Whether it's your natural leadership ability or professional expertise, some aspect of your character is threatening. The persecutor only feels secure when you lose all power or advantage, which often means finding another job.
Coping With Workplace Bullies
Workplace bullies get better and better at finding easy targets, so standing your ground early on may discourage them from intensifying bad behavior. Stay calm, maintain eye contact and avoid emotional responses that let offenders know their actions are getting to you. Challenging rude statements may also make a bully back down. If an aggressive colleague repeatedly criticizes your work, ask her to explain a better approach.
Document every instance of verbal abuse, sabotage or aggressive intimidation, especially if you don't have any advocates. Keeping detailed accounts can help you make a convincing case to HR or file a legal complaint against employers who enable bullying.
To outwit a workplace bully, try to find supportive managers, HR staff or co-workers who can back up your experiences and efforts to resolve the issue. If the company is more concerned with burying the problem than dealing with it, do yourself a favor and find a job in a positive environment with formal policies in place to manage bullying.
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