5 Ways of Dealing With Work Bullies

While bullies vary in type, surprisingly, dealing with them often requires a very similar set of tactics, Barnes says. But the key is to stop the bullying as soon as you start to see it happening.

“If you’re being targeted and bullied, it’s going to take a toll. It’s a surprisingly short amount of time before you’re a nervous wreck,” she says. So, if you’re dealing with a workplace bully, try these steps.

Ground yourself. The bully is looking for your reaction. If you show that you’re hurt or upset, “that’s going to make them happy as heck,” Curry says. Find a way to stay calm and work on your game face. Try to stay calm in the face of bullying.

Start documenting. Write down what happened and when, Barnes says. Keep detailed accounts of the circumstances, exactly what was said, and who, if anyone, heard or saw it.

Turn the tables. Sometimes, calling the bully’s bluff works, Curry says. Try responding to abusive statements such as, “You always mess up,” with “What would you have done differently?” If the bully responds with another smear, like “I would have just done it right to begin with,” ask for specifics. Often, the bully has nothing constructive to add and will back off, she says.

Find a champion. Your company may have a formal human resources process for dealing with bullies. If so, don’t wait to report egregious behavior, Barnes says. The bully could be damaging your reputation behind your back. If your company doesn’t have such a process, or if the person to whom you would report is the culprit, then try to find a champion elsewhere—another supervisor or leader in the company who can intervene on your behalf, she says. “That can be a very powerful strategy, and I’ve seen it work,” she says.

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