Survive Workplace Bullying: Don't Be a Victim

One of the most challenging problems in life is a workplace bully. They affect managers and executives just as they affect workers. My guess is that the percentage of employees that are bullies goes up as you climb the corporate ladder, but that's just me.

There's a lot of content on the subject, but much of it is what I call "victim talk" - whining, complaining, storytelling - and not much in the way of pragmatic advise. Well, this aims to be different. You see, I've been a victim and I've been a bully. That's right; I recognize it and admit it. As a result, I think I can provide a unique viewpoint on the subject.

Now, before a lynch mob begins to form, let me explain. I've seen bullies that literally target other's destruction. I was not one of those. I was, however, an intimidating manager and, sometimes, verbally abusive. I regret that.

That said, some very successful leaders like Bill Gates, Andy Grove, Steve Jobs, and Larry Ellison also fit that description. No excuses or comparisons, I'm just saying.

Anyway, keep one thing in mind: this is a nuanced subject. There is no quick fix or one-size-fits-all remedy. And frankly, the solution lies mostly with you, which, if you don't have that "victim" mentality, is the best place for it to be.
What doesn't work:

  • Change them. You're not going to change them or how your company or business handles them, so don't try. You'll just waste your time, get more frustrated, drive yourself crazy, or even get yourself fired.
  • Go head to head. Taking them on, on their terms, is a very bad idea. You'll lose. However you describe them - narcissistic, antisocial, abusive, manipulative, political, dysfunctional, whatever - they've likely been that way their entire lives, they're very good at it, and they will win. Period.
  • Suck it up and "handle it." In a sense, that is one aspect of a solution, but only to the extent that you can indeed "handle it." Once you start seeing a shrink, drinking, taking antidepressants, or taking it out on loved ones, that solution has run its course and it's time to do something different.
What does work:
  • Step 1: Look Inside yourself. No, I'm not saying blame the victim, but your choices are limited and this is where to start. There were times when I was bullied, as it turns out, in reaction to my own bullying. I didn't even realize it. Or I tried to go head-to-head and then it just escalated. Or I enabled the bully by allowing myself to be bullied, a sort of codependent type of thing. Just think about it.
  • Step 2: Outlast them. The next step is to go about your business, keep your interactions about business, settle in for the long haul, try to treat yourself well outside of work, and hopefully, the bully will self-destruct, as they often do, before you lose it completely. This is a limited version of "suck it up." The point being that, these days, some of us can't afford to just up and quit. But once you start to see the danger signs, you need to take the next step.
  • Step 3: Quit. As I said, before you start to burn out, freak out, abuse yourself and others, or go postal, you need to cut your losses and find another place to work.
If all this seems short, oversimplified, or even no help at all, well, then you're looking for something that isn't there. This is how it works in the real world, like it or not. In fact, you can help your fellow readers by sharing your workplace bully stories. Go ahead, it'll help you and others.

On the subject:

  • 7 Signs You're Creating Your Own Workplace Stress
  • Work Stress Can Kill You - Don't Let It
  • Dealing With Work Stress and Burnout