Bullies typically manage up and make life difficult for their subordinates – although some terrorize their colleagues and bosses too. Their motto is “My Way or the Highway,” and they follow the Office Bully Code of Conduct:
- Be cold. Never let them see emotion.
- Be selective. Only let people who agree with you join your circle.
- Be defensive. Make it clear that you’re not open to constructive feedback.
- Manage up. After all, your bosses are the only people who matter.
- Be condescending. Real power brokers prey on other peoples’ insecurities.
- Be divisive. Make it clear that you have favorites, and pit them against each other.
- Screw retention. No employee is worth fighting for.
- Use the stick, not the carrot. Positive motivation is overrated.
- Stir the pot. Getting people wound up makes things interesting.
- Own your turf. Don’t let others set your boundaries.
- Expect the world. Demand more than is reasonable.
- Be volatile. Explode randomly to keep them walking on eggshells.
- Skip the thanks. Acknowledging others takes time away from you.
The code of conduct may seem humorous or hyperbolic, but it’s no laughing matter to the victims of the office bullying – who comprise 35% of the workforce, according to Workplace Bullying Institute.
Everyone remembers the boss from hell and how they escaped. Early in my career, my boss was the office bully. I spent a lot of corporate time keeping a log – a diary of sorts – of all his nefarious behavior. I was so worried about him finding out about my log book that I brought it home every night. It was an extremely stressful time, but fortunately it was short-lived. The CEO negotiated a departure agreement with him a few months after I joined the firm. You – or a colleague at your company – may not be as lucky.
My experience reflects the statistics. Drawing on the WBI study, veteran human resources consultant Susan Heathfield reports that 72% of bullies are managers. Whether the bully is in a leadership role or an entry-level job, the damage can seep into all aspects of the company. Most employees (and often vendors, partners, and clients too) know who they are, and the tales of bad behavior take on a life of their own. Some bullies are aware of this and even take pride in it, but the climate they create is bad for business. It takes valuable time away from great work, and it undermines even the most stellar branding efforts.
The personal toll of working in a harmful environment can have a major impact on your success, health and happiness. Living this way every day creates a constant level of stress. Even the most hardline senior managers should care about that because it can wreck productivity.
If you’re being bullied, here’s what you can do to make it stop:
1. First, acknowledge that you are being bullied, and acknowledge that it’s unacceptable.
2. Don’t go it alone. Consult with a trusted friend or colleague and let them know what’s been going on. Get their guidance and support. If you can, reach out to a mentor or someone who is senior to you and has been at your company a long time.
3. Take care of yourself. Look at the impact of bullying on your health and stress level, finding ways to counteract the negative impacts. You need to be running on a full tank to deal with the bully. Consider meditation and other stress reduction techniques (here’s a link to Quick Calm from Jordan Friedman) to maintain your health. Also, get smart on the topic of handling challenging people. Books like Coping with Difficult People may help.
4. Prepare your case. This helps you get clarity about what is happening and serves as proof should you need it. Be clear about exactly what behavior is happening and when it happens. Document events and circumstances with as much detail as you can. Build allies. If you see this bullying happening to others, reach out to them. Identify witnesses too.
5. Take action. At the same time, don’t do anything that would put yourself or your job in danger, and don’t take on his or her tactics. Be calm, level-headed and respectful. If you can confront the bully without putting yourself or others in harm’s way, do so. Don’t confront when emotions are high or your energy supply has been depleted. Be direct, letting the bully know that you will not tolerate the behavior. According to Jonathan Littman and Marc Hershon in their book I Hate People, “Bullies are only effective when they’re on solid ground. Ground that you can take away.” Their advice? “The next time he swears or heaves a phone book, call it out. Point out that he’s swearing or yelling, and leave the room. Or end the call. . . . You’re wrapping Bulldozer’s fury with tough love. By making statements about his conduct, you’re putting him on notice. Keep up your game and by the second or third attempt, Bulldozer will tire of spinning his treads in the sand.”
6. Seek support. If directly confronting your bully isn’t the right option or has little or no effect, you will need to report the behavior to your boss. If your boss is the bully, you’ll obviously need to tell an upper manager or go to HR. The work that you did to document what has been happening will be crucial, as will allies and witnesses who can support you and back up your story.
7. If all else fails, consider pursuing a role in another part of the organization, or seeking opportunities elsewhere. If you’re working for an organization that tolerates or even encourages bullies, that’s not the right place for you. When the company’s values are so different from your own, your career goals (which drive your personal brand) will suffer. Spend time finding the right opportunity, and pursue it when it becomes available. Just knowing you are working toward getting away from the bully will help you feel more empowered. And when you land that new job, consider using your exit interview to document your reason for leaving.
Follow me on Twitter and check out my latest book, Ditch. Dare. Do! 3D Personal Branding for Executives.
This article was written by William Arruda from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.