How to Handle a Workplace Bully

Stuck in a hostile work environment? Try this seven-step plan to knock your bully down a peg.
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sad office woman

If the first five steps fail to make any improvement in your situation, I have two final suggestions. The sixth step is to return to Fran once again and to be even more direct (as direct as you can be without getting fired). Proceed cautiously as you think about what to do; once you go this route, there’s no turning back. Try this: “Thanks for seeing me again, Fran. I was hoping things would change based on our earlier conversations, but I feel like perhaps things have gotten a bit worse. Here’s the deal: I feel like you really don’t like me, and that I’ve done something to offend you in a pretty fundamental way. As a result, I think you’re angry at me most of the time and that you try to make it clear to me how you feel quite a lot. So, I am here to find out why you’re so upset with me and what we can do to make it better.”

After you say your piece, just stop. Listen. What does Fran have to say? She’s going to do one of two things. She’ll either tell you that you’re crazy and chew you out even more, of if she has any brains whatsoever, she’ll back the hell down. If she goes crazy, proceed immediately to the next step. If she finally hears you—perhaps only after you give her a glimpse of the evidence—then there’s a real chance for some change. Now, you’re in the driver’s seat.

Read How to Fight WIth Your Partner (WIthout Ruining Your Relationship)

Last step: Go over Fran’s head. Most workplaces take these kinds of issues very seriously, and you need to remember that Fran has a lot to lose by continually harassing you. Think about the best person to speak to. If you go over her head but find an ineffective leader, you risk making her even more upset. Once you start up the chain of command, you need to go as far up as needed until you find someone who will be a real ally. You need Fran’s boss to indicate to her directly that anything short of a complete change of attitude is unacceptable.

Find someone who can sit you both down together and help you air your grievances, then set a plan for moving forward. Remember, as much as you want Fran to suffer, you goal is simply to get her off your back and get on with your work. If there’s a way for Fran’s boss to help “solve” the situation without actually punishing her, this would be best. It won’t fulfill your sense of cosmic justice or need for revenge, but it will lead to more harmony, and that’s the most important thing in the end.

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