The first time Andy barked at Annette, she raised an eyebrow and asked, “Bad day? Would you prefer I come back later?”
“Let’s do it,” he snarled. “You people push for this and push for that. You think you’re the only people who count. What’s this damn email you sent all about?”
Annette got up and left his office.
Andy sent her a stormy email, which she forwarded to their supervisor and human resources. The next day, a chastened Andy responded with the information Annette had requested.
By contrast, Annette’s predecessor, Suzanne, stayed put despite Andy’s tirades — even when he called her a bitch. Convinced she needed Andy’s information to complete her report, Suzanne endured meetings in which a red-faced Andy screamed in her face. When Suzanne finally quit, others asked why she had put up with it for so long.
Suzanne answered, “I kept thinking it would get better.”
Like Suzanne, you may have tried to ignore a workplace bully, hoping things would get better on their own. You may have believed that if you acted professionally and politely, your workplace bully would leave you alone or act nicely in return.
That ignores the truth about bullying.
Bullies perceive niceness and avoidance as weakness and an invitation to take advantage. Those who don’t stand up to a bully’s initial attack signal that they’re easy prey. The situation then spirals out of control, with the bully escalating how he puts you in your place.
Bullies bully because it produces results. If you don’t want to be trampled, you have to become someone who can and will stand up to– and outmaneuver– bullies.
How do you grow smart and tough enough to take on the bullies in your work life? You start from where you are, and grow the skills you need. When a bully confronts you, consider how a brave person would handle the bully or situation, and become that brave person. Unless it compromises your physical safety, be willing to exit your comfort zone. When you step forward, you’re not fragile, passive or powerless. You’re not just letting events happen to you and silently allowing bullies to walk all over you. You’re standing up for yourself.
Do bullies target you because you let them? Don’t pass the test that you should fail.
Adapted from Lynne Curry’s Beating the Workplace Bully, 2015, AMACOM. If you’d like an answer to your career question, it’s easy. Write email@example.com. You can also follow Lynne@lynnecurry10 on twitter or access her other posts on SheKnows, www.workplacecoachblog.com or www.bullywhisperer.com.