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How to Deal With Office Bullies

7 Tips to Deal With a Workplace Bully (Even If He Is Lance Armstrong)

In last night's riveting interview with Oprah Winfrey, Lance Armstrong admitted that his competitive spirit turned him into a "bully" who would "win at all costs." Those who spoke against him suffered his attacks, which included lawsuits, derogatory bashing of their character, and more.

A former teammate, Christian Vande Velde, had accused Armstrong of threatening to fire him if he didn't start doping. Armstrong says that he never gave a direct order, but others may have felt pressured to follow Armstrong's example since the cancer survivor was the team lead. Dealing with bullies is an experience that many go through, and it can be very emotionally taxing. And the bullying doesn't always stop at your adolescent years; you might have to face it in your adult life at work. Here's how to deal with a bully in the office:

  • Document it. The first thing you need to start doing is documenting every instance of bullying that you experience. Note the time, the date, and a description of the incident. Be sure to include eye witnesses who can possibly vouch for you. And don't delete all the written communication you have with your colleague; save them. Check the recording laws in your state to see if it's legal to record the incidents without them knowing. For more information on recording people, read this.
  • Don't relinquish your beliefs. The most important thing to do is not to be intimidated by the bully. If you think giving in will make the bullying stop, think again. Most of the time it gives the bully the upper hand and lets him take advantage of you even more. Stick to your beliefs, and don't relinquish them for anyone.
  • Confide in others. This is an emotionally draining experience, and you can't handle it on your own. Confide in people you can trust and get the load off your shoulders. You need all the support you can get during this difficult time. Some people may even offer valuable advice.
  • Confront your bully. Before taking more official steps, talk to your bully privately. Tell him that you feel uncomfortable with his actions and that it's affecting you, then firmly and politely ask him to stop. He may not even realize that he's hurting anyone or that his behavior is really unprofessional. He may also realize that you're not the type of person to be cowed by his actions and that he needs to stop his behavior or it might mean trouble for him.
  • Talk to your supervisor or HR. If the bully seems indifferent after you talked to him, then make it official by first talking to your supervisor. Bring the documentation of the incidents with you when you meet with her, and tell her how it's affecting your emotional and professional well being. If telling your supervisor doesn't seem to have made a difference, take the next step and file an official complaint with HR. And of course, if your boss is the one bullying you, talk to HR about it.
  • Find an attorney. So you've tried everything and nothing seems to have worked. Perhaps you should consider finding an attorney and getting legal advice from her. Check to see if workplace discrimination laws applies in your situation. Think carefully before you go this route because going to court can be a financially and emotionally draining process. Your employer may also have deeper pockets than you do, so evaluate the risks before doing so.
  • As a last resort, leave. When all else fails, consider leaving the company and finding a new job. Ask yourself if your emotional health is worth your job before taking the steps to leave. When you put in your two weeks' notice, be honest in your exit interview and why you're quitting.
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