I had a reader email me yesterday with a problem. Let’s call her Jane. Jane works with a women who is subtly bullying her at work. It’s typical enough stuff. They both have positions on the same level but the bully always acts like Jane has to answer to her. She’s snarky, she’s sneaky and just generally unpleasant to be around. She also takes credit for Jane’s work and Jane’s worried that if she comes forward she’ll look like a tattle tale. She needs some advice because she loves her job but this woman is a nightmare. Here’s my two cents worth but I would love to hear your opinion in the comments.
How To Open Up A Can Of Whoop Ass On Your Work Place Bully
Be Super Duper Nice to Her
Not because you want to be her friend but because you want to piss her off. My mother always told me that nothing annoys bullies more than when you’re absolutely lovely to them and she’s totally right. Greet your bully every day with a giant smile, compliment her on her outfit, tell her the idea she had for that project was genius and even bring her a coffee to work sometimes. It will totally throw her off guard and completely shift the ownership of power. She’ll be confused and probably annoyed and that’s when bullies are at their weakest. Just keep wearing her down with your charm.
Never Ever Talk About Her Behind Her Back
It doesn’t matter how upset you are by an incident with your bully at work, you must never talk to another colleague about it. It might be tempting but you should really be talking to your partner, a friend who’s not associated with your work place, a parent or even a counsellor. If your bully finds out that you’ve been taking about her, there will be hell to pay. Also don’t try to get other people on side. That’s primary school stuff. When the shit hits the fan and she gets called on her awful behaviour, you want to be squeaky clean.
If she’s done something underhanded or you believe her conduct is detrimental to the company, then you need to go to your boss. If nothing happens there, then you need to go to HR. Just make sure your claims are professionally valid. ‘She hurt my feelings.‘ is not a good enough reason to officially log a complaint. You need facts and ones that aren’t fuelled by emotion. You need to prove that her behaviour is affecting your ability to do your job.
Call Her Bluff
If your bully is swanning around pretending to be in charge, simply call her bluff. It’s tempting to put a wall up and fight back by deliberately keeping her out of the loop of projects but the best thing you can do is actively show her what you’re working on and ask for advice. Bullies like to lord over people because that makes them feel important but deep down they don’t give a shit what you do. They just want to make you feel nervous. After a few weeks of you running everything by her, she’ll most likely get bored and stop caring.
Consider The Fact That You May Be Misunderstanding Her
I used to work in a newsagent with a woman who I thought was pretty awful. She was very brusque, would make accurate but not terribly flattering comments about my appearance and whenever I made a mistake she would make me feel like an idiot. I figured out after 6 months of hating every shift with her that she was actually just a very direct person and she would have been gutted if she thought she’d offended me. Also English was her second language so it took me a while to become accustomed to her intonation. Once I adjusted my own attitude, we became great friends. Sometimes there’s just a crossing of wires and you might have to wear the bigger boots and uncross them yourself.
Always Have A Witness
If someones keeps stealing your ideas… stop telling them your ideas. If this is unavoidable then always, always have a witness to your conversations. If you’re emailing, CC another colleague in on the thread. If you’re talking make sure you include someone else in the conversation. Bullies love secrets so make sure you never give them any.