How To Open Up A Can Of Whoop Ass On Your Work Place Bully

How To Open Up A Can Of Whoop Ass On Your Work Place Bully

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

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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.

Be Professional

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. 

What do you guys think? Have you been bullied at work? How did you deal with it?

Carly is the founding editor of Smaggle which launched in 2007 back when blogging was weird. She has appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Cosmopolitan and Cleo magazines. Hoop earrings are totally her thing and she almost got run over by Myf Warhurst while out jogging one day.


  1. me 1 year ago

    i had this happen to me. best thing i ever did was have a quiet word with my boss by asking how did they deal with situations like this. My boss got it and without naming names made a few suggestions and confirmed that everyone knows what the person is like and that i was seen to be doing a great job. Don”t dob as such, just ask for personal guidance on working with different styles and people. I’m guessing your boss will be aware already to some extent.

    • Author
      Smaggle 1 year ago

      Totally agree. Dobbing isn’t the way to go and more often than not, if someone is being a dick in the workplace plenty of other people are suffering too.

  2. Erika 1 year ago

    Document. It helps because you may suddenly see things from a different perspective, and also because you now have a record. It can also show trends and you may be able to figure out ways of handling those trends. My preference is for electronic AND hard copy, because hard copy can be forged, electronic tends to be time-stamped and fiddling with that and not leaving traces is beyond most people.
    Where someone the same level is behaving as though they’re your boss, take it up with the boss and keep telling the offender, “that’s interesting, I’ll mention it to our boss and they can delegate to the most appropriate person if they think it’s worth doing”. They can’t really argue with that. I’ve been in this sort of position (pyscho boss from hell) and it really sucks. Didn’t help that it triggered a major bout of depression.

    • Author
      Smaggle 1 year ago

      Oh I love that! Throwing it back to the boss. Documenting is a great idea. Thank goodness for emails, I had a run in with a woman years ago when I was running tests at university. She happened to find two lost and distressed test candidates on the campus that had missed half the test and she bailed me up out the front saying that I was ‘disgraceful’ and she was ‘disgusted’ at how my departement was run. She completely incorrect and and completely out of line and I thought I’d heard the end of it but then she found my email address and said that she was following it up with the students and I’d better ‘sort my shit out’ or she was going to sort it out for me. Cut a long story short I went to her department head, told him that she was gorssly misinformed, that she knew nothing about the situation and was completely out of line. I showed him proof that the students knew exactly where they were supposed be and that they had signed a form showing that they understood the terms of the test and I had a trail of emails where I had told them THREE TIMES where the test was as well offering to show them the day before the test if they stopped by my office. She disapeared shortly after that and I assume she got dismissed. What a nut bar. Long story short, emails are awesome.

  3. assuming 1 year ago

    Is she insecure or am I just perpetuating the myth that bullies are bullies for a reason rather than admit they are arseholes…

    • Author
      Smaggle 1 year ago

      Do you mean the bully herself? I think if someones being a bully it can be one of two things. That they have issues of their own and might react well to a kind response or they are just jerks. The only way to tell the difference I think is go in with a kind a response and figure it out from there! :-)

  4. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella 1 year ago

    Good advice from the post and from the comments. I started a new job and watched a woman bully my team mate. She acted hideously towards her and I told her straight out that if she wanted any sort of cooperation from me then she had better cut out that sort of s**t. Amazingly it worked but I’m sure sometimes, you have to resort to a few tactics.

  5. JessB 1 year ago

    First of all, Jane, I’m so sorry this is happening to you. Rest assured that you are not the only one it’s happening to, and it’s almost certainly not personal- workplace bullies generally choose targets by position not by person.
    When it happened to me, and when it really hit the fan, a number of people who witnessed her behaviour came to me to acknowledge what was happening, that it was wrong and that they’d seen it happen to others. I was shocked that it had happened to others, and that it had been allowed to happen to me too.
    Unfortunately, while I got a lot of support from colleagues at my own level, upper management was determined to placate my bully and were firmly on her side. I ended up leaving that workplace, and was glad to go.
    I’d agree with the advice not to gossip, but to ask your boss for advice on dealing with the bully, in terms as general or specific as you’re comfortable with. Their response can guide you on further actions- if you feel they understand you and are sympathetic and willing to take action if necessary, then you know where you stand. If you feel they aren’t interested and don’t get it, and don’t want to do anything about it, then you also know where you stand.
    Finally, I’d remind you to look after yourself- if you find that this is becoming all-consuming, then take steps to protect yourself and your mental health. Hopefully it is just a bit of New Girl syndrome on the part of your bully and she’s feeling off-kilter by your awesome, idea-generating presence, and she’ll come around.

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