A bully at work can make your life a living hell. I know, because I’ve worked with clients who have shared their horror stories with me. Narcissists often show up in the workplace, and to make matters worse, they are often in positions of authority.
One of my clients was so traumatised by a bully at work – a full-fledged Narcissist, that she had to leave her job and was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD.
This is a smart, gorgeous, intelligent woman who has a highly successful career. But her days were filled with dread, she was suffering with anxiety, shakes, nightmares, anger, and her weekends were awash with misery as all she could think about was how much she dreaded having to go into work on Monday morning. She felt that she'd lost herself and wondered if she'd ever get over it, and feel happy and normal again.
Events escalated to the point that she had to leave her job because she just didn’t know how to deal with this bully and she couldn’t take another day of stress and anxiety.
So she spent the next year working from home, and then a great opportunity came up that she couldn’t turn down. So she went back to work. And guess what happened? She walked slap bang into another atrocious bully, who started to undermine her and question her authority from the get-go.
This client reached out to me and said she needed help. She said she simply did not have the emotional strength to deal with another bully and she was still suffering daily with anxiety from the final episode with the previous bully – an episode that almost led to a physical attack that left my client an emotional wreck.
But I assured my client that she would not have to go through this emotional turmoil again, and not only that, but I would be able to help her deal with the fallout from the previous bully. Now we did this, in an in-depth, deep-dive coaching session, and I obviously can’t go into details about that here, but I can tell you that in just a few short weeks, the transformation she is seeing and feeling in herself is incredible, and the action she is taking at work are proving highly effective for her particular situation.
But what I want to do here today is give you Four Tactical Tips on how to deal with a bully at work.
Now firstly, if this is a brand new bullying situation, you can nip it in the bud very quickly – it’s a little more difficult if you are in an established ‘bullying relationship’, but nevertheless, some of these tips can still help you enormously.
Tactical Tip No 1
Is to understand this: Bullies are emotionally dysfunctional people who have usually become so due to a sad childhood and they bully to make themselves feel better. They are suffering with extreme low self-worth and they bully others to assert themselves and to feel superior.
Now I’m not saying that you should feel sorry for them, absolutely not because their behavior is unacceptable. What I am saying is that if you start thinking of them as sad, lacking in self-worth, dysfunctional people, instead of powerful bullies who can make your life a misery, that immediately disempowers them in your mind.
Taking it a step further, consider what it would be like to be inside their heads. Wouldn’t it be just awful to have to constantly pick on, belittle, criticize and undermine another person every day just to feel good about yourself? Doesn’t that make you see them in a very sad light?
Now shine that light in on yourself, and acknowledge that you are a very good, decent person who would never treat another human being that way. And allow yourself to feel good about that. Allow yourself to feel a LOT bigger and better than the bully. Because you are!
Tactical Tip No 2
So the next thing you can do when the bully starts in on you is immediately
remember what I’ve just said about them, and then say to yourself in your mind ‘I’m not going to let this saddo upset me’. Ground yourself in the reality that this person is the one with the problem, not you, and that nothing he or she says is going to ruffle your feathers. Ground yourself in that reality, because that's the truth here.
The bully is always looking for a reaction from you… they want to see that they can hurt or upset you. If you deny them that pleasure, you rob them of their power, so work on your poker face.
Then, if they keep on ranting, turn around and walk away from them. Do NOT stand there and take their abuse. This also disempowers them to be left there talking to your back as you walk away. They’re going to look stupid.
Tactical Tip No 3
The next thing you can do is start documenting the abuse. Write down what they said, what you said, how they acted, and what you did to get away from them. Add the date, time and place.
Another thing you can do is have a voice recording app on your phone. Practice quickly and discreetly hitting that record app, and as soon as the bully starts, hit record.
If that’s too tricky, you could invest in a small Dictaphone that would fit in your pocket, so you can just slip your hand in your pocket, and you can record from there. If you love your job and don’t want to leave because of a bully, you have to take action to prove that you’re being bullied.
Bullies and Narcissists are generally very clever, manipulative, and extremely good at twisting things, as well as often being accomplished liars. This is a failsafe way of getting them on record in an irrefutable way, it and it also makes you feel empowered knowing that you have this secret weapon.
Tactical Tip No 4
The next thing you can do is look around you at work. Bullies don’t operate in a vacuum… their MO is to find someone to be bullying most of the time, and before you came along, there was probably someone else in their crosshairs. And when they lose interest in you they will find someone else to target. They can’t help themselves… it’s their life-blood. They have to keep doing it to validate their own worth.
So look for allies in the workplace… more often than not, everyone will know that the bully is a bully but few people will have had the courage to do anything about it. You’ll often learn that people have left the job because of the bully.
You can be the person to change that. If you can get support from others, get it documented, signed and take the case to HR. They have a professional obligation to do their jobs. Dig out the company HR Policy. There is bound to be a clause in there about bullying. Use it! File a formal complaint and see what your company is prepared to do about it.
Now these four tips are not exhaustive by any means. Bullies come in many shapes and sizes, they use different tactics, and some companies are not as on the ball as they should be when it comes to stamping out bullies,
and the bully could be (and often is) in a supervisory or managerial role over you, which makes it harder for you to deal with them, but these four tips can definitely help you to make a start on putting an end to the bullying.
No one deserves to be traumatized at work on a daily basis, and the moment you decide to stop accepting the treatment is the moment you start taking back your power.
So I hope you found those tips helpful, and are ready to try them out if you are being bullied at work.