When you first begin to realize that the co-worker is going to try to bully you at every turn, stop trying to please them. Trying to resolve any issues, work out the problems, or discuss the situation with the bully is adding fuel to the fire. They enjoy watching you squirm; they feel powerful over your emotions, and they will not stop the behavior. Don’t even try to “fix it”. It won’t work. If you just can’t stand it anymore – if your workplace bully is making work unbearable, here are some tips to really drive them up the wall.
The first course of action is to be exceptionally polite. That doesn’t mean sarcastically polite or emphatically polite, it just means to be very polite in all situations. They will think they have you where they want you. NEVER show emotion when they are around. I know it’s hard, but rein it in. You don’t have to smile, but be polite and courteous in every situation – especially when other people are around.
Secondly, the bully will try to enlist their friends in targeting you and making you uncomfortable. Bullies are cowards and they love to gang up on people. When more than one person is around, give vague but polite answers, and don’t let them pin you down. If they ask for specifics, tell them you will find out and get back to them. Again, they will think you are weak and uninformed. Confuse your bully. In a tight situation, get up and walk out. If you must, tell them you will be in the restroom. Then, go to another part of the building for a few minutes. If you absolutely must give them a definite answer – don’t let it be something that will turn into ammunition for the bully. You can always tell them that you are unsure and will email them with the answer.
Most importantly, document the bully’s behavior EVERY DAY through email. Send the email documentation to yourself at work and at home. These are dated and timed records of any incidents that occur — that cannot be altered. Send them every day. Create a little folder in email, call it “Timeline”, and file the unopened emails in the file. Open your home emails, print them, and file them at home. You now have two irrefutably dated and timed records to use as reference.
When the bully is having a particularly stressful day, wait for them to be close to a meltdown. Then, when no one else is nearby, walk over to them, bend down and quietly tell them that you want them to stop harassing you and bullying you. Look them in the eye, and very calmly, tell them you have documented their behavior, through email, for two to three months, and that if they don’t stop, you will be sending all your documentation (It’s as thick as a book!) to the Manager of HR and your attorney. Tell them that you have sent all the emails to your home as well, and that you’ve printed them out as dated, timed records – that cannot be altered since they were sent in email.
Hopefully, the bully will completely lose it on the spot (like mine did). It makes them look very bad (out of control). Then, they will begin to behave themselves. They may never speak to you again (unless necessary) but it’s better than bullying.
Your “book” will drive the bully crazy. They might let down their guard and start bullying you again. Look them in the eye, smile, point to your computer monitor, and start typing. Don’t look at them again, except for occasional glances, and then make sure you smile pointedly while looking at them calmly.
If the bully continues, request a meeting with your HR representative, via email, and tell the HR rep that you have documented the behavior for two months and that you have it in email. If your HR or personnel representative does nothing, consult a lawyer. Don’t tell the HR person this, but document that you spoke with them on the day that you do. Then, if you can afford to – call in sick and tell them that the stress of being bullied is impacting your capability to do your job because you do not feel that it is a safe work environment. Now, you may be in for a fight – but your employer is required to provide you with a zero tolerance for violence policy and address a threatening work environment. I’m pretty sure your lawyer will back me up on that one. Your best bet is to look for another position in the company, if the bullying issue is not resolved. And, remember, they will bully the next coworker that is perceived as weak, so eventually their reputation will build as – a bully. Befriend the victimized coworker and tell them to use your technique. The bully will be outnumbered and you can use the documentation to file a formal complaint.