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Dealing with Bullies

Growing up, I was taught to be an open and honest communicator.  It was expected.  It was expected that if you had a problem, or if you had a conflict, that you discussed it.  You didn’t whine about it.  You didn’t sweep it under the rug.  And, you didn’t act passively aggressively.  Instead, you talked it out, you explained how you felt and you came up with ways to fix it or deal with it.  Although as a child there were times that I thought our household did too much communicating, I now pride myself in being open, honest and forthright.

Recently, however, my belief in open communication turned against me.  Over the last couple of months, I had noticed that my colleague (let’s call him Tom) started acting distant and dismissive.  As peers, my work and his work needed to be integrated to get the job done.  Yet, I constantly felt as though he wasn’t respecting me or including me in important discussions that were vital to the work we were doing.  It became clear that it needed to be addressed, and I told him in a couple of ways, that I’d appreciate if he would ensure that I was part of these discussions.  Ignoring these requests, Tom started displaying passive aggressive tendencies towards me and it was starting to affect the way we worked together.  Finally, one interaction pushed me over the edge, causing me to want to address the situation immediately.  I discreetly pulled Tom aside and told him that I detected something was wrong.  Trying to be sensitive to Tom’s feelings and to avoid putting him on the defensive, I put the responsibility on me by saying that I hoped that I hadn’t done anything to offend him.  This plan backfired.

Instead of taking my gesture as an opening to an honest two-way dialogue, Tom used this opportunity to bully me.  I patiently listened until it was obvious he was through, making sure that I let him fully express himself.  When he was done, I apologized for how he felt and started to explain how I was feeling.  He quickly made it clear that he didn’t care.  All of the feelings I had been feeling for the better part of two months, were completely dismissed.  Further, he was quick to let me know that he had no intention of taking any responsibility for any part of the situation, implying that the problem was completely my fault.  I came away feeling stomped on, deflated and disrespected.  Not quite the outcome I had hoped for.

Although I believe that open communication is the key to successful relationships, this interaction made me realize that it doesn’t work with everyone.  Although I do think speaking with Tom was better than not saying anything at all, it obviously didn’t accomplish what I had hoped it would.

Tom was given the gift of closure; he got to express everything he felt.  I on the other hand, didn’t get to express much of anything and as a result, was left feeling even worse than I did before the discussion.  In hindsight, I feel that I left it all on the table, without any recourse or ability to defend myself.  I feel that I gave him an opening to put me down and to belittle me.  And, I feel that he completely took advantage of me and the situation.

There were a lot of things left unsaid, and I so wish I could have another opportunity to tell Tom what I really think.  Instead, I have to let it go.  Letting go is SO hard!  Especially when you feel that you’ve been beat-up with no ability to defend yourself.  The only thing you can really do in these situations, I guess, is to learn from them, so that maybe history doesn’t repeat itself.  Here were the lessons I learned:

  1. Mutual Respect: If you embark on an open dialogue with someone, make sure that both of you respect one another.  If a person doesn’t respect you, talking to them may fall on deaf ears, and you may find yourself in a worse off position.
  2. Be Prepared: If you attempt to resolve a conflict, prepare yourself for the possibility of it not going as you would expect.  Otherwise, you may not get all that you wanted out of the conversation.  Create a list of the things you want to address to ensure that you get to make all the points you want to make.
  3. It Takes Two to Communicate: If the person is not a big communicator to begin with, it might be a sign that the conversation may not go as you hope.  It was clear to me that open communication was not in Tom’s repertoire unless it was one-way.
  4. Sharing Requires Caring: If the person you are hoping to speak with is not interested in your feelings or concerns, you may be left feeling empty.  If the person doesn’t care, it isn’t worth the emotional investment.  Stick to the facts and don’t let emotions get involved.
  5. Timing: When we are upset and want to talk about something, it is important to take some time to really think through how we are going to have the conversation.  I reacted emotionally, wanting to solve something on the spot.  As a result, I didn’t really think through how I would approach him or where we would have the conversation.  Instead, it was on the fly and in a setting that didn’t lend itself to having a thorough conversation.
  6. Self Confidence: We all have moments where we lack confidence, but if someone has self esteem issues deep down at the core, they will mask it by being a bully or pointing fingers…and not taking any responsibility for anything themselves.  In this case, I suspect that Tom has issues that have nothing to do with me, and instead of acknowledging that maybe he was partially wrong in the situation, he had to make himself look and feel better by placing all of the blame on me.

Replaying the conversation in my head, I realize that I totally enabled his behavior. I didn’t stand up for myself, because I was blindsided by his attack.  If you think you want to have a conversation with someone, be sure to respect yourself in the process.  You are the only one who is going to stand up for yourself!

Have you had a situation that was similar?  Did you open a conversation with someone only to find that they didn’t value or respect you?


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Posted in Brett's Blog, Mind-Body Tagged with: , , ,
  • I just wanted to say that this blog is consistently awesome.

  • Reed, thanks…I needed that!

  • This is one of those situations where I write a big fat letter. I think I’m going to send it when I write it, and take lots of time to make it say just exactly what I feel – but rarely wind up sending it. Which is probably a good thing. It does at least help get a little bit of closure to the person who actually deserves some. Mean people suck. 😉

  • Flo

    Yup. Been there, done that and it cost me my job in the end. I too strongly believed (still do) in open communication. I faced a very similar situation to yours, except that the peer I had the discussion with escalated to my boss, who defended me. Feeling totally abused and in my right, I escalated his attitude to his boss. I should’ve thought about it twice : his boss eventually became a big boss and discontinued my job. That is what standing up for myself got me!

    The lesson I learned: never take things personaly in the workplace. Men are very good at that while women tend to want to fix things, communicate better and feel good. I don’t mean that abusive verbal behavior should be minimised or ignored, but standing for oneself by standing out is sometimes just not the best strategy. Unfortunately the corporate world rewards people who don’t make waves around them and keep an efficient, low-profile.

    Since then I’ve observed how some tackle workplace issues and always appear as “the saviors”: they simply have enough self-confidence to know their value. Being sure of their value allows them to let-go and just let those people not get a grip on them.

    Another lesson I learned: if my work is impaired because of a peer’s attitude, I inform my manager and let the problem solving to him/her. It is what they are paid for. And I protect my work by signaling that I am not the responsible if the final job is not satisfactory. But don’t go any further in trying to resolve yourself communication issues with peers. At least not in the workplace. On personal issues I remain convinced of the virtues of open communication!

  • Lyrea

    OMG, I also had been in your position many times! The last time it happen, I also stomped down on the notion of peace-talk with this sissy-like man who tried to bully me.

    yes, I’ve done the things you do, like trying to open up 2 ways-communication, trying to save his feeling by saying sorry if I did wrong him in the past and yadda yadda….instead the next time he bragged to his friends “I’d never forgive anyone who says sorry to me no matter what, or trying to get close again with them, because I’ve known what kind of person she is!”

    That’s the moment I realized that I’m dealing with high-schooler wannabe youngman whose 5 years my senior but feels like 15 years my junior, and I suspicious this is just his way of “re-living the old days”.

    I let go as well. I got insight though….I’ve learned that these kind of bully…they have troubled past. In twisted logic, tney tried to make themselves feel better by releasing their anger and helplessness to others.
    It’s like, they try to forget and bury their own pain. Their twisted logic makes them think that if they can make someone else feel bad and sad and suffering, then maybe they’d feel better. It’s like they’re trying to find sacrifical lambs. They think they can make someone suffer as their replacement, so they will feel better because someone else do the ‘crying’ instead of them.

    I’m not interested in being a savior to these twisted people though. So I said my goodbye to them and never looked back again. Life is difficult enough without us having to be troubled by cowards who couldn’t face their own internal problems and turned into bully because of their twisted logic.

  • Chrissy

    This behavior falls under peer discrimination in employment law. Unfortunately it’s always the most peaceful person without problems that gets targeted by the jerk who loves to create conflict. Stuff employment cases are made of.

  • Mike Veis

    All bullies are either cowards or they are insecure. It happens at school, at work, or even at church.

  • Alan

    This is great advice for any and all open communication period. I’ve copied it and sent it to my soon-to-be-ex as a blue print for ourselves. Hope she’ll see it that way.

  • Greg

    Its good to deal with problems by having a chat. In my experience, men aren’t as inclined to get personal because the second they do..the gloves come off and they better be prepared to defend themselves. Unfortunatly bully’s only respect strength, and nothing but confrontation will make them stop. Honestly who cares why they are bullying you, why waste you time psychoanalyzing them? The only issues that are pertinant are that the behavior is innapropriate, and it needs to stop immidiatly

  • Jayne

    What about the fact that we haven’t got the chance to listen to the other side of the story. It’s just a matter of looking things at a different angle, different perspective. Don’t worry, be happy.

  • marge

    You’re right, some people may not have the guts to accept their insufficiencies and their faults. And instead of accepting that fact, they’ll bully you and make you more misserable than they are.

  • mary

    As a mom of a young child, i recently had to deal with my son bullying another child. I never thought i would have to deal with a situation like this but unfortunaly it does happen. I dealt with it and told and kinda put him in a similar situtation, lets just he will never bully another child

  • J

    One of the best blogs I’ve read in a very long time! I can relate to that. I got the boot years ago when this colleague became jealous of me for being the boss’ favorite. I’m really full of myself at that time (imagine a Senior Manager being envious of a mere trainee!) and I was stupid enough not to realize he’s saying things behind my back to the boss. One thing I learned in the workplace: speaking up may not be a great strategy, let alone speaking up for others. The workplace is a dog-eat-dog world and you just can’t afford to trust anybody.

  • Ohlookaduck

    I am so amazed at this article. I had a very similar experience with my younger sister a few months ago and ended up feeling like I was truly going insane. Things will never be the same between us since we are unable to have a conversation where we can share openly and without her placing all blame on me (for things I never even did!). I had no idea this was bullying. We are middle aged and I would have thought we would be dealing properly with each other by this time, but I guess my desire to have peace between us will remain an unfilled dream.
    Thank you for making things so clear. It was very eye opening.

  • Thanks Brett for a very honest, open and thought provoking article.

    In every relationship it is always hard to divorce your own feelings from what is happening. And yet, the skill of being able to do his is where your true power lays.

    Because once you can step outside the story you have going in your head and ask what I call the power question:

    Why would a reasonable and honorable person act this way?

    It can open you up to viewing the situation from a different perspective. 97% of people you will touch in your lifetime are reasonable and honorable in most circumstances … they haven’t set out to make others life miserable. It’s just they are caught up in their own needs, desires and fears.

    Asking this power question enables you to set aside your own powerful (and normally negative) story, long enough to view the world from the other’s perspective.

    Once you do this it frees you up to start the dialogue with them in a different way.

    Certainly it can be challenging when you find yourself in a situation where you feel beaten up, put upon and wronged. Rest easy though there are a set of skills anyone can learn to more effectively weave your way through these tricky situations.

    There are books and websites filled with information on how to do it.

  • Mandy

    You stand up to a bully by standing up to a bully. End of discussion.

  • Bob Wilkinson

    Some of the techniques to handle a bully seemed passive rather than assertive and direct. For the extreme bully the phrase “this is unacceptable” works very well.

  • Donna

    Hi there! I wanna personally thank you for writing this. I felt like I was reading a situation that happened to me. I am just like you and I believe in open, honest communication where you play fair. You’re beliefs and actions resembled mine when I was being “bullied”. What stuck out for me the most was #6 Self confidence. My “bully” has the lowest self eteem and was those deeply insecure girls. Her words “attacked” me – “you did this”, “you did that”. And you’re right, she blamed me for everything to make herself feel better.

    I guess the main thing I learned is that it’s good to have open and honest comunication….if the other person is worthy of it.

  • Daimon Jinn

    I’m not sure if this is for bullies in the work place or schoolyard bullies. I was And Still Am a Schoolyard Bully. I love it when they try and stand up to me like I’m going to suddenly feel frightened by them. It always made it so much more fun beating them up. I’m not insecure I just like to hurt people because I really dislike them. I tried to avoid people at school but they just wouldn’t quit so after my first fight and the kid laying on the ground with a bloody face it felt really great and the look of fear on the other students faces. I’m not a killer or anything I just like to hurt them because the dead don’t scream. Its true some bullies will back down there are a few that won’t. So you have to figure out what kinda bully you have before taking a stand or you could end up on your back and bloody.

  • Voice Of Reason

    Wait a minute here! How on earth Brett do you feel Tom is a bully? Tom was acting “distant and dismissive” toward you not attacking you or being cruel and mean like the actions of a true bully.

    Some people are very sensitive to others and would interpret your obviously direct method of communication to be intimidating and somewhat threatening. It was YOU who took him aside and told him you were upset. I get the impression Tom was unloading his issues he had with you, which he had kept bottled up until you forced his hand so to speak.

    Good Grief, this is definitely a one sided story. I see Tom’s side as a reflection of my own as I am a sensitive person as well and his actions have mirrored some of my own.

  • Seriously?

    Voice of Reason. Are you serious? Brett was acting in a professional way. She had to work with him and he was making it difficult. What else was she supposed to do? Report him? Taking action and going into a one-on-one conversation is much less threatening to someone than having their boss make a huge deal out of it. Tom obviously has issues…probably suffers from insecurity…maybe like you. If he was healthy minded, he probably would have listened to Brett’s side AND appreciated the fact that she was giving him an outlet to open up and provide her with a window into what the issue was. Instead, he lashed out at her and verbally abused her. Voice of Reason…get a life.

  • i realized long ago that kindness is only for those who care and matter and thus deserve it. others need to earn and prove worthiness to my favor. we all learn sadly from ill-mannered people that not everyone is willing to play by the rules of etiquette, grace or manners. we can only assume these people suffer greatly in other areas of their life, where swinging a sledgehammer is no way to honor a butterfly

  • Christina

    Wow, true blog and lot of great responses. I think the bullies with the past-issues sometimes have to be put in their place when it’s in the work place. Sometimes the things have to be immediately said to them to make them start to look at themselves, other times they are so closed off nothing you say will matter and they’ll turn it against you. I am in workplace issues, over apologizing for something I may have done with these types of people which have become easier and easier to pick out early on.

    Generally…I avoid them and do my work. If our work is entertwined, I make sure the higher up sees my part is done and knows I can only do what I can and ask them if there is something they’d like me to do or if there is anything they can do.

    When it comes to personal relationships, it’s good to know how most guys view things and vice versa-Mark Gungor has some really funny and TRUEEE insights on that lol. However much the few rude people ruin it for the world, open communication is still the best policy. When asked “What Would Jesus Do?” I say well…when it was time to speak to certain people at certain times He did, and other times, He remained silent and He stood with the world against Him just knowing Who He was and that He was doing what God asked Him to do. Good way for us all to do things and look at them, regardless what your faith is…best example has been set.

  • Lew

    Great article – well said!

    My favorite tactic (and yes, being sarcastic) done to me is to CONSTANTLY bring sideways elements or topics into the argument as though they actually mattered. This gets me not only having to talk about those elements – usually only in a means to get BACK on topic, unless it’s close enough to topic that I have to address it – but derails my thought process and what I need to say to them to get the actual point across.

    Eventually, interjecting enough non-topic points into the conversation, things get incredibly muddled, and they get me SO off balance and angry I start getting things wrong – which they jump ALL OVER and use to their advantage, bringing me down further and further, and derailing the conversation further and further, derailing any shred of a point I may have had. By then end of what started out as a conversation, I’m left feeling violently trampled on – and having to end the argument before I say something I’ll regret, never having made my point to them, and they happily (metaphorically – they’re ticked, but I mean this in a “satisfied” capacity) leave knowing they have “won”.

    And I’m left stewing for days. Yay… Some people just don’t know how to communicate with others in a constructive way.

  • Need to Say This

    I can very much relate to this! I had a family member who was brought up to believe that the rest of the family was there solely to fulfill his needs. He saw members of the family as “opportunities” to be used and abused. His empathy for what anyone else was going through was Totally Absent. He didn’t even See other people, much less attempt to relate to what they were going through.
    This person is healthy, Not a substance abuser, a college graduate, and very intelligent. Yet, he will consistently try to dominate, manipulate, and bully other members of the family..because..that truly Is the Mystery. Possibly he has issues with self esteem that go very deep.
    Possibly he is a manic-depressive..although he has been on anti-depressants for years. The medications help him to stay calm, yet his world view of “Me First” has not subsided. You can’t “medicate” faulty thinking. There is no prescription for stopping and truly comprehending the horribly negative impact you have on others. You just have to want to do it. He doesn’t!!
    This individual does not believe in “talk therapy”. He believes he is much more informed and clever than any psychologist..more’s the pity. I can’t tell you how many psychologists he has seen, and ended up arguing with them Instead of Listening!
    My ultimate solution? I removed myself from him..for good. No phone calls, no emails, no asking other family members “how he is”..I haven’t spoken to him in many years. Was it worth it? Absolutely! He’s a lost soul as far as I’m concerned and I’m not going down with him. Would I have liked things to have been different? Sure, but they weren’t.
    I’ve been through alot in my life. I’ve earned the right to NOT be harrassed, ridiculed, taken advantage of, manipulated, or bullied. The only way to stop the cycle (cause, folks, it takes Two to make a dysfunctional relationship) is to step back, cut your losses and Just Leave It Alone.
    The former bully will be shocked at first..but it’ll sink in. You’ve had enough. You have a right to enforce your boundaries. If you don’t, there are hundreds of misguided people who will want a piece of you. Sound harsh? It’s a little bit of pure Darwinism..survival of the one who knows when to fold ’em and just walk. Don’t get mad, just GET AWAY. It could save your life some day. God Bless!

  • Voice Of Reason

    part 2:
    “Bullying is the act of intentionally causing harm to others, through verbal harassment, physical assault, or other more subtle methods of coercion such as manipulation.” -Wikipedia

    Someone who is “distant and dismissive” does not fit into this category. These are avoidance tactics. Tom obviously has issues including unprofessionalism but he should not be labelled as a bully. By labelling him as such puts Brett into a counter-attack mode meant to put this “bully” in his place, and thus may have attacked too harshly or at the wrong issues, perhaps sub-conciously. I’ve noticed that nowhere in the article did Brett state what Tom’s view of the problems were, nor did she mention any specifics about how Tom was actually being a bully.

    I do think that Brett TRIED to behave very professionally in the one-on-one confrontation, and kudos to her.

    To “Seriously”: Attacking me is not the professionalism you speak so highly of. This is only my point of view against someone else’s point of view. I appreciate and agree with your assessment of Bretts actions.

  • Stewart

    Did anyone ever think that it was Tom standing up to you & you speaking your mind. Its funny that people believe that they have this right to say whatever they want without any consequence. The mind can have a lot of garbage & should not be allowed to be spoken at times. Maybe your blunt honesty could be construed as a controlling, judgmental & bullying too! I would love to be a fly on the wall to hear what actually took place & I am sure you have similar opinions against you but people won’t say what they feel. The smarter people will say nothing to you, but wait for you to come to your end just like the other person who commentated came to theirs. I think you also have your problems that you need to deal with to & sort out. Before you try to change everything around you change yourself & maybe you will find your life will have a lot less conflicts

  • Seriously?

    Stewart and Voice of Reason. If you read the blog, you’ll see that Brett asks him what SHE may have done to offend him. “I discreetly pulled Tom aside and told him that I detected something was wrong. Trying to be sensitive to Tom’s feelings and to avoid putting him on the defensive, I put the responsibility on me by saying that I hoped that I hadn’t done anything to offend him.” How the heck is Brett wrong here? It amazes me how people don’t read the blog, and then attacks the blogger.

  • Seriously?

    Oh and further, she didn’t say he was a bully until after he attacked her. She never said that he was a bully when he was distant and dismissive.

  • We will never know what happened untill we hear the other side of the story & I bet this is not the first or last time SHE will have this problem.

  • Thanks for all of your comments. To those interested in Tom’s story, I’m not Tom, I’m me. And although he has his side of the story, this isn’t Tom’s blog. My point in writing the blog, however, was to discuss bullying in general and the idea of open communication…the story was purely an illustrative example. Hence the end points of the post.

  • karen

    I work at this job where people bully me when it comes to me going to the bathroom and to lunch. I feel that I have been made to tell them how long I’m going to be and what I will be doing in there. When ever I go to the bathroom which is no more often than anyone else it appears that I’m being followed. I have ran to the bathroom and ran back in an effort to only be gone for minute or less since other co-workers have gone behind my back and said that I was in the bathroom for more than five minutes. I tried to discuss the issue with a co-worker and she had another co-worker present at the time in which she made false comments about me being ten minutes late infront of the custermers. My boss pulled my time sheet and said no that is not true I will talk to your co-worker. However, my boss expressed her absolute confussion of the complaints of me being away from my work erea for exstremly long periods of time. As I told her that I do make it known when I’m going to that bathroom and that I do not stop anywhere else. I even time myself.

    None of the other co-workers have to deal with this bathroom or lunch issue of being falsly acussed. They come and go as they please and they do theire job in the best way that they see fit. However, I am also bullied when it comes to doing my job as I am told no you can’t do that I want to you can change the menial grunge tasks. If I come up with an idea I will not be given the opertunity to do as a co-worker will take my idea and use it for themselves an refuse to give me credit. I have been told that the custers give me to many gifts. I have even been questioned about how a custermer let me pick my gift and that I should bring it in so they can see it. I have even sted that it is indeed the same gift just a diffrent flavor or color.

    I am finding it extremely stressful to work in this environment and I know that I am being harassed and I would like to know if there are any legal steps that I could take if this continues. I am set to have a meeting with the person that told me to my face that I’m late ten minutes everyday and the other people that have said that i leave my work space for large chunks of time have not come forward as of yet and they have remained a mystery. I was told by my boss that any complaints should first be discussed away from the customers directly to the co-worker and then it should come to her if it is not working. this way has not been practiced by these co-workers just me. I really would like for the mystery accusers to come forward I don’t know why they are hiding from me. I tell them when I’m going to the bathroom for what I am going to do in their, and still they wrongly accuse me with out ever coming forward. It is my boss who tells me about the complaints without ever naming names. Should I request that my accusers come forward and meet in her office so that I can hear their bathroom time complaints face to face?

    I feel that the co-workers would be happy if I danced around until I couldn’t hold my bodily functions anymore and defecating on my self. This bathroom bulling with time is humiliating and demeaning to me.

  • karen

    please disregard the typos. sorry

  • Need to Say This

    I’d like to thank Brett for having the courage to write this article. I think this discussion surely helped alot of people. However, I also think, and I say this with All Empathy Brett, it’s a mistake to wear your heart on your sleeve in front of the wrong people. Wanting to communicate honestly and openly is an admirable aspiration. But we don’t live in a perfect world.
    Many people will take advantage of an open person. They will use your sensitive spots against you. You leave yourself open to cruelty and bullying. I wish it weren’t that way, but not everyone came from a family as obviously emotionally healthy as yours was.With many people, especially in the business world, it’s smart to play your cards close to your chest.
    With managers, I have found that telling them just what they need to know, and no more, works best for the employee. With fellow depends. Some people are mature enough that you can confide almost anything with them. Others will have a melt down if you disagree with whether it will rain that day or not!
    I’s pathetic how insecure some people are. They may feel secretly threatened by you for any number of’re pretty, you’re better educated than they are, you make more money than they do,you have a boyfriend and they don’t, you wear more expensive clothes than they do, you exude more confidence in yourself…Anything! Who the heck knows!
    It’s not our job to psychoanalyze these idiots. However, the watch word is “protect yourself”. Be open only with those who won’t kick you for it. God Bless to All!

  • Punisher

    The best way to deal with a bully is to beat the living crap out of them to show your not going to take their crap anymore.

  • Jen J

    Awesome article. Truthful, touching, and inspiring.

  • Greta Caines

    I thinnk this makes for excellent reading. It shows you how you operate with people and perhaps how some people operate with you. You can make some serious decisions to stay away fom people, particularly those people who you are now forgiging a relationship with, especially if they are exhibiting some of these traits, more than that if they have more than one of these toxic traits.

  • Greta Caines

    Do not let people take advantage of you. and do not let people disrespect you – regardless of what they believe they are bringing to your table expecially if it is MONEY

  • I want to thank Brett, Need to Say This, and everyone else: I desperately needed to read this today. Maybe it was a Godsend. I am dealing with 2 people in my life who are bullying me. I am not sure exactly what to do. I want to go forward in my life away from them but they are making up lies to others to take control.They have contacted my past and present Landlords, making up lies so that my apartment gets checked every Monday. They know all about my mail and who I mail mail to. They are both concerned about me taking legal action against them for different reasons, so in the meantime they are making my life miserable. Right now I am isolated from everyone. They are both bullies and sociopaths because they will look you straight in the eye and lie to you without blinking an eye. Someone told me to ignore them and that everything will pass. I don’t believe it because they have already had the freedom to do what they have done since I have kept my mouth shut. They have contacted my alma mater and EVERYONE that I have every met. I see that they have been doing this now for at least the last 2 years. I am gravely concerned about my future and how to stop all of this. I just don’ know what the best approach should be. I want so much for a happy ending. I want to go forward and have a life and get a job. I am very concerned.

  • SP

    The title of this post is “Dealing with Bullies” but there is no advice at all on how to deal with people who bully. You are simply saying be prepared for the worst when dealing with this type of person and learn from your mistake when you make it confronting them. Doesn’t sound like you dealt with anything at all.

  • Sameena

    Stop being so freaking nice – that is the true way to deal with bullies!!!!!!!!! Bullies in my life were taking advantage of my forgiveness and understanding. yes, I am still as nice as I always was but to those who respond to it. Bullies understand the language of consequences, niceness is wasted on them.

  • Gabriella

    At work, bullies can target a victim from across the room when they first see the victim, by viewing the victim’s clothing, facial expressions, and body language. The bully will then speak to the victim to ascertain that the victim is indeed a true victim.

    First: I am not “nice.” I act like a law enforcement officer in my demeanor: speak in monotone and say only what is pertient to my work as it relates to the bully – if there is no link, I make that clear, turn and walk away.

    Second: I reveal no personal information about myself – I say that I am busy on a project.

    Third: If the bully tries to provoke me, I look at them grimly and silently walk away.

    As a result, I have had many people ask me if I am a Vice President or FBI, although I am not. I get PROMOTED.

    I am a woman, but act like a “man” would – that is the secret.

    I do not go to work to make friends, but to earn money. Period.

    The bullies find me boring, and look for another target.

    If a bully impeded my work, I go up the chain of command and report the bully; when I submit the complaint, I also provide evidence of the damage the bully has created by their behavior.

    I do this in my personal life as well. I went shopping for electronics, and the salesman slghtly helped me, then ignored my order. I submitted a complaint to the HQ of the company, including a copy of the receipts from another store I went to later, to get better service. The receipts totalled $3,000. At that point, HQ saw that inappropriate sales performance by the bully cost the company $3,000. He was probably fired.

  • Gabriella


    You have a right to face your accusers. Anything short of that is harassment.

    I was once in a situation like yours. I worked for the government, and there was only a 1% causasion component working there. The greater racial component pulled something like that against me, in order TO RUN ME OUT, in order to eliminate that 1% component.

    Statements made to me made me realize that.

    I possess 3 university degrees; the average worker there possessed a high school diploma. Needless to say, our personalities did not fit. Further, I discovered that violations of state and federal law were routinely committed by other employees – I will not commit any crimes in the course of my work; furthermore, I will not stay there and put myself in the position of potentially being arrested as an accessory to a crime. Therefore, I left.

    You may be in this same position and not even realize it.

    I resigned because I deserve better treatment than that, and also can earn more money using professional licenses, or working in the private sector where education is revered – it is not appreciated in government, since governmental entities are NOT productive.

    You can try to fight the case of the bullies stalking you, but you will probably lose, since your supervisor is an idiot to even listen to the bullies’ later complaints, after she had earlier ascertained that you did not come in late, contrary to the bullies’ earlier assertions.

    I would suggest that you leave your company and move UP into a position where you will be surrounded by people as honorable as you. I believe that right now, you are under-employed for your abilities, since emotional stability usually accompanies a higher intellect: realize you are currently in a work position where you are surrounded by emotionally unstable people, and you just don’t FIT IN.

  • Need to Say This

    Gabriella’s response is the most professional, LOGICAL and detailed strategy to take with a bully in the work place on this whole site. Very intelligent! If you want step by step ways to handle a bully in the work place..READ THIS. Way to tell it Gabriella!

  • Beth

    My Gosh! You have no idea how this hits home with me! My Mother-in-law is a huge bully! She manipulates everyone in the family and has alienated my husband, me and our kids from the rest of the family because we wouldn’t ‘conform’ to her rules. She tries to ‘punish’ us by buying the rest of the family big, expensive gifts and making sure that we know about it. It doesn’t bother my husband and I, but our kids find out that she has given her only other grandchild Ipods, laptops, Wii consoles, phones, money, jewlery and takes her shopping constantly, and it’s really pissing me off because they always ask us why their grandma doesn’t love them and only loves the ‘favorite one’ as they call her. Our reply is that if they want to know the answer to that, they need to call and talk to their grandma, whom they are quite frightened of, because she yells and throws fits to get her way and they’ve see too much of it before we backed out of the whole family situation. We don’t have the money that my husband’s sisters family does and that his mother does, and with 4 kids, that kind of competition isn’t going to happen, nor would it even if we were to afford it. We have brought our kids up to be good, hard working, honest, caring individuals. Our two oldest, who are adults now, are very good. They both have jobs and know that we don’t have to spend lots of money on them to know that we truely love them. It’s just sad that there are toxic people in the world like my Mother-in-law. Thank goodness we don’t have to put up with her anymore! Alienation in this form means peace for our family! Plus, just think of the money we save not having to buy the rest of them presents for Christmas and Birthdays! ;o)

  • Maria

    To Karen (May 25)
    Did it ever occur to you it may be your boss’s way of addressing you about your bathroom breaks? You say it is only your boss that tells you about the complaints. Maybe your coworkers have nothing to do with it and you are blaming them without proof. I had a boss that used to pit one person against the other so people would always be fighting with each other. Pretty sad. You need to ask your boss to tell you the name of the complainer, to detail the incident, when it happened, who was there. Use the bathroom on your break and lunch times to minimize work time breaks. Be honest with yourself, is there justification for the complaints? Keep a log of all your bathroom breaks, add up the time. Improve the quality of your work– take a course to improve customer service, typing and spelling. Maybe they are looking for any reason to get rid of you. If your blog is a reflection of your work start looking elsewhere before they do.

  • schooltchr


    I thought your comment about WWJD? was right on target.
    About 10 years ago, I was in the midst of a really bad workplace bully- fest. The target was on my back. I was the primary breadwinner for the family (yes, I am female!). It was really bad. I was trying to be rational and politically correct, however it did not work. The bullies colluded w/one another. We had relocated to another state for this job, my job. A wonderful, older and wiser co-worker quoted some scripture to me that enabled me to hold steady and plug on:

    “Greater is He than that which is in the World”.

    My coworker loaned me a gold cross which I wore under my shirts!

    People can be so good. Yes, there are some angels out there, and my family is now back “home” where our roots are. (Our home state of Texas)

    I have moved on to teaching and met some really “golden” teachers, too.

    God Bless!

  • Well Said

    AWESOME POSTS HERE ! I’ve been working with a few semi-toxic people intensely for 4 years and have instinctively developed many responses exactly as described by “Need to Say This” and “Gabriella”. Without these difficult experiences I doubt I would have gained clarity, confidence and wisdom. Yes, GET AWAY fast or slow but GET AWAY from these types because they have no interest in changing for good. Although many bullies in business won’t physically harm you. Its hard to believe but many WILL seek you out- they are sick, demented, toxic. Learn to focus on your specific purpose, do it and quickly leave potential target zones.

  • Medical Tech

    Bullies have low self esteem: This is my story, I worked in an office as a technician for 23 years. I loved working with the patients and got very close to them. The last 5 years that I was there were awful. Bullies like to be in clicks, they seek a target or two to harass , bully ,try to manipulate ,lie, make sounds when they pass by,.Yes all of these things happened to me. Yes I went to my bosses and they tried to resolve the situation, which made things worse instead of better. These people had deep emotional problems,very low self esteem etc..
    I was harassed, they lied about me, defamation of character and slander. I tried to hold on to my job and not let it get the best of me. In Feb of 2009 I had an emotional breakdown, so my body told me it had enough. After seeking medical treatment and medication I am now much better. The hurt and pain of it all will be with me for a very long time, I am in the healing process but am doing fine. I took 3 months off before I decided to find another job. Well I have been hired by a Dr. in a small office. My responsibilites are many and I am very busy there, no bullies , no manipulators work there. I have a good repore with my boss we understand each other. I am very happy with my job, been there now for 7 months. I now can be the person I want to be, not who some else want me to be. If there is anyone out there going through anything similiar please seek employment elsewhere, no job is worth going throught any of this. Love yourself first and go on with your life, you will be a very happy person !!!

  • Bullying itself can come from a variety of sources. One source, as I mentioned, is bullying at home—maybe there are older siblings, extended family members or parents who use aggression or intimidation to get their way. I also think part of the development of bullying can stem from some type of undiagnosed or diagnosed learning disability which inhibits the child’s ability to learn both social and problem-solving skills.

    Make no mistake, kids use bullying primarily to replace the social skills they’re supposed to develop in grade school, middle school and high school. As children go through their developmental stages, they should be finding ways of working problems out and getting along with other people. This includes learning how to read social situations, make friends, and understand their social environment.

  • I was labeled as “difficult and disrespectful” by a boss who had no sense of boundaries, was rude, disrespectful and vulgar – she loved using the “c – – t” word around staff, and it was a woman of my mother’s age. Needless to say, I found that difficult to deal with. She was also lazy, and I suspect she had a touch of dementia due to her “forgetfulness” and her ability to fly into a rage in about 10 seconds flat.

    Within the first 2 weeks of my employment at that company, I was asked to go way above and beyond my contractual obligations by taking on Accounts Payable (I was Assistant Director of Education at a private college). When I said I would do it for a pay raise, I was refused the increase so I said I would not be able to do it. I was accused of “jumping down her throat” by saying no. This was only the beginning of 2 miserable years at the college, which culminated in getting laid off from my job as Registrar because “my skill set was no longer relevant” (ironically, this was the same week the I had managed to finish cleaning up about $300,000.00 of accounts receivable, which, btw, wasn’t in my contract to do) When I took the position as Registrar, I didn’t realize that I was the 5th person in a 13 month period in that job … high staff turnover says a lot (negative) about a company.

    I have since realized a few very important things that every person should know – 1) if a person is weak and insecure, s/he will feel threatened by someone with brains and potential, and will do everything to undermine them – they will always find fault with what you do, 2) there is no such thing as job security, all you can do is your best job while actively looking for something else, 3)No employment obligation should ever supersede your rights as a human being to dignity and respect. 4) If you do your best to be pleasant and do a good job, then if someone doesn’t like you, it probably isn’t your fault. It’s their problem, and you don’t have to deal with it (see points 1,2,3)

    I am in a much better place now, and realize that I prolonged my own misery by not cutting and running sooner. But hey, at least I got a pathetic severance cheque, which was better than nothing.

  • Donna B

    I can really relate to the responses so much, and could tell some horror stories of my own, related to the workplace. I worked as a LPN for thirteen years, and am a meek, but attractive person. But today, the bully is my husband. And I am gonna take Gabriella’s excellent advice!!! And even though I am a woman, I am gonna act like a man about holding onto my budget. And he doesn’t care about my feelings- not even two years in and I think we’re not gonna make it.

  • Jess

    Great article. I had always cherished that same open communication and had it similarly used against me in quite a horrific railroading from my job instigated from my boss. It was the most awful experience in my life.

  • Roberta

    Wow, bullies are everywhere and this struck home for me not because I have run into them so much on the job but my last boyfriend was a bully and used yelling, intimidation, never taking responsibility, blindsiding in conversations, etc. to get his way. People like this are very narcissistic and deeply insecure and can only get any sense of confidence from putting other people down or feeling like the other person is someone over whom they feel superior. These types of individuals are toxic and live a fear based life and they want everyone else around them to feel the same. GET AWAY. Look for other jobs, or if possible escalate it to management. If they are in your personal life, all you can do is distance yourself, because they will burn you, I know this from experience! I have learned a lot about assertiveness since then and agree that being nice gets you nowhere but you have to be assertive with them, stand your ground, I recommend reading books on assertiveness so that you can learn to deal with their manipulations and stand your ground and force them to respect you. Laziness and fear is what their behavior is based on, and also a total lack of empathy for other people. Being assertive (not agressive which engages them in conflict) is the best way to stand up to these creeps. Set limits, and stick to them. Don’t allow them to get away with their crap, make sure that if you get abused by them there are consequences that will follow. Even then keep in mind they may escalate the toxic behavior because they are also all about controlling other people. My ex boyfriend was a bully in our relationship and a suck up to his bosses and co-workers. He is a creep and I am so glad I got away…I’ve run into these types at work and they are backstabbers, be cautious, watch what you say and stick to your guns when dealing with them.

  • Rikki

    Man, it is so incredible that I am reading this article about bullying and all the replies. My father just passed away 2 months ago and he was the ultimate selfless, wonderful human being, as well as being my best friend of my life. I knew once he was gone I would truly be alone in the world. Other then him, I was totally surrounded with manipulative, abusive people, including my daughter and my boyfriend, my past 2 bosses,my attorney (who I finally stood up to and fired after he totally ripped me off) etc etc. I too am always deemed as the “nicest, sweetest person” by everyone who meets me. I try to be kind and compassionate and respect all others, but it has gotten me NOWHERE fast! I have been scared to death and feel totally powerless. I was rushing to go to my therepist appointment yesterday, and it was accidently canceled. I have been feeling hopeless and want desperately to understand WHAT I AM FEELING AND SEEING! Like I don’t get it? Why is this happening? And now today,I happen to end up on this website, and I don’t even know how THAT happened! All I can say is THANKS TO ALL OF YOU, I NOW DO GET IT! I HAVE TOTAL BULLIES AROUND ME AND DIDN’T KNOW WHAT IT WAS, OR HOW TO STOP IT! THANK YOU ALL!
    You also saved me $25 from missing my Kaiser therepy appt. and diagnosing this myself!

  • Twins Fan

    It is truly amazing how many different types of bullies are in the work place and worse, how many are STILL in the work place after owners/managers are advised of the behavior.
    Not every boss is a yeller or a screamer. Some are such cowards that their methods are like a slow moving poison. I work with a group where one woman is actually physically frightened of the GM. Yes, he treats her horribly (demeaning, disrespectful, zero boundaries and zero maturity) … and she is a mild mannered ‘cute’ girl that has a position that is equal in authority – he is not her boss and yet, he treats her like a bowling ally tramp.

    For those of us that are ‘strong’ both in confidence and competence, this method will not melt us to quivering jelly. The only way to be successful in an attack against someone who has stellar skills, loves her job and is respected by those she works with and for…. the bully must use the ‘closet’ and slowly denigrates the employee in the eyes of others. Remove the necessary tools for the job to be done effectively and basically lie their butts off (something that is a natural part of the socio-psycho bully).

    I’ve read these comments and was struck by the comment ‘I act like a man…’ but no matter what they say about women’s advances in the ‘man’s world’ – the strong woman is ever the B*t*ch or is labeled ‘Butchy’ by the same bully who she is warding off the attack. I too do not expect my job to provide me ‘friends’ … actually, my job is the reason I don’t keep in touch with the ones I have. But I can say as a manager that advocates for other employees of this company I am amazed at how quickly they become ‘part of the pack’ when the bully approaches them. It’s one of the bad traits of Human Nature.

    I went to bat for the girl I mentioned above. She asked me to confirm with the owners some of the things going on. I was the ‘star employee’ both with the owners of the company and the GM (as I actually did 90% of his job and mine) until the GM got wind of the various meetings and discussions. Cute girl is off his hot-plate and now I’m the one on it.

    That was 7 months ago. It has been beyond hell for someone with my work-a-holic tendencies. I’ve provided 17 pages of documents of what I found in less than an hour online regarding Toxic Work Places and Bullying – how it affects the company’s bottom line and the health issues it creates for the entire group. It had awesome articles from HR sites and Legal sites (remember, ‘bullying’ is not illegal until someone kills themselves over it) and it was my hope they would absorb some of the factoids to allow them to understand just how dangerous it is to ‘do nothing’.

    The results?? I spent 2 days (a total of 8 hours) with a lawyer hired by the company to protect them from me!!!!! How sad is that?

    I’m still here. Looking for another position – but like many have posted, I am the main bread winner in the family plus I carry the health insurance. So, until then … I will remain strong with Zoloft, calm with Bio-feedback and attempt to deal with stress hives with Benedryl 

  • Gemmemose

    waow! i have learnt so much! having experienced bullyin, i like the last statement, ‘report to the chain of command’. Bullies boil like kettle when reported. it deflates all their ego and make them feel foolish, weakened and combated! they CANNOT STAND WAT THEY GIVE TO OTHERS! they then cease to be able to predict u and becOme careful, KNOWING THAT U’RE NOT ALL DAT TIMID, BUT FULL OF SURPRISES TOO. their last resort,IF A SENIOR, will now be fault finding to get even?? but BY THAT TIME THEY’VE LOST YOR RESPECTS AND the battle is lost already!!


  • Sara

    WoW, that describes my ex. Getting away from him certainly helps, but a few times every year his anger and self doubt bring him to a vicious verbal attack. If it weren’t for the kids I could live a life without having to talk to him… Letting go of the “battle” makes him more angry and has not been effective.

  • Olivia

    I am living with two other females who are meant to be friends of mine. They have spent the past couple of months isolating me and are constantly ganging up on me, I feel constantly stressed and tired. I am constantly been spoken down to and being told by them what is going to happen in certain situations. one is the ringleader and the other says nothing, they never approach me on a one to one basis and tonight I realised that I am being bullied. I’m sure if I confront them with this they will dismiss it, can anyone please offer me advice as to how to deal with them?

  • OOOOHHH yes, Sameena you are so right. I have always been nice to everyone even if I see you have a Stank attitude on how you treat others. I’ve grew up. But, I understand that you have to live at peace within. If not that bully and just people will run you crazy. I don’t take it. I am the one that would rather talk about what the problem is, but come to find out; its only a she said stuff. Life is not worth, that kind of hurt.

  • mary

    After one year i find myself speaking to my ex only to confront him with all things i felt were abusive. What i love about this timing is that im healed from my injured heart ..i can be clear and there are no emtions clouding my thoughts. Even i still.dont have a response from my ex i feel that this type of recognition of his bulliying toward myself even it happend yrs ago makes me feel better toward myself. I feel my heart healing fast.

  • Ah! Tom was/is truly a passive aggressive person!! Those are the WORST people in the world to communicate with, other than narcissists. They consider everything someone else’s fault and never ever accept responsibility for anything they say or do. They honestly don’t think they ever do anything wrong. The best way to deal with someone who is passive aggressive is to run away and never have anything to do with them ever again. If you have to work with them or interact with them, put everything in writing, email, notes etc. and be very blunt about what you expect, want and need. If (or rather when,) they don’t follow up, then you must follow up and confront them. “You said you would ____, but it’s not done. Can you tell me why?” Passive aggressive people have a lot of anger from an authority figure in their past, and other issues around self-esteem. Give them the attention and praise they want and they’ll cooperate as long as they’re getting it, but it’s a stressful game to play. Steer clear of them as much as you’re able. They’re just too good at being total jerks while appearing to be cooperative.

  • C

    It is so hard to unlearn old bad behavior when you are living with people like that all the time. What can one do? It’s so hard to know what to do in a surprise attack, when you can’t remove yourself from the situation, like being in a car, when your emotions seem so strong and you cannot think, what can one do? Is it ever possible to change? Isn’t practice the best way to change, but how does one practice if you’re never ready because everything comes suprisingly and then you react? What to do?

  • Marsha

    I used to be a witty, confident person with an ability to talk about anything to anyone and treat everyone as equal until I formed my own opinion. My other half use to say that he was amazed at how many people gravitated towards me. How things change. I started working at a place I loved with people I thought down to earth and warm. How naive. My work productivity was on a high and I learnt things quite quickly. Even my original boss before he retired said that I had potential to be a manager. Unfortunately, my colleague (who was a good mate) became my boss and I was totally pleased for him and willing to help in anyway. Unfortunately, he was a weak boss and allowed the new guy (friend of the owner)to manipulate him into believing I was no good as he wanted my job. He succeeded. When I came back from holiday I was told that I was being moved departments. I was gutted as I had built up the job from scratch. As I needed the money I accepted the job which was a side step and avoided the newbie as much as possible. He kept harrassing me until I was forced to make an unofficial complaint with my new manager. Who just said I was being sensitive and didn’t get his humor. Eventually the newbie left and although my old colleague said that I was more than qualified to take my old role back the owner employed a friend who used to be a male stripper with no experience. WTF? Move forward a year and I have been in limbo with my boss who denies being my boss, ignores me, undermines me and takes the mick out of me behind my back with other colleagues. Everyone bad mouths him, but I refuse to take part just in case and put on a brave face and laugh with those I trust. Despite this I have focused on my job, saved the company loads, gained respect from my clients and other colleagues without complaint. I have become quite introverted and now cry in the toilets sometimes from the pressure which is something I NEVER EVER do. He even said if I fell off a building he would step aside and let me fall. He bullies other girls who differ in opinion or do not respond to his flirty ways so I know I am not alone. My question is what am I doing wrong to encourage this behaviour. I have totally lost confidence in myself and made the decision to hand in my notice as it was also affecting my marriage. If I am doing something wrong then I would prefer it if someone would tell me. A manager friend of mine who is close to this guy said to me that I have left a massive void and my boss was blanking me to put on a brave face. I am soo totally confused and depressed especially seeing as my old job appeared on the job website with all of the responsibilities I had been asking for but denied. I now worried that I may get a bad reference. I have never ever experienced anything like this in my life. I have always had a good rapport with people. I experience workplace bullying on a grand scale and my trust in people has now evaporated.

    • Brett

      Marsha, This sounds like a terrible situation. I would suggest you look for a new job. The environment you are in is downright toxic and is eating away at your very core. I have no doubt that you could get a wonderful reference from other people and I would focus on those relationships to get you through this. Don’t stop believing in yourself. If you do, you will lose all sense of self and your abilities. Good luck.

  • Marsha

    Thanks Brett. Although I felt better about handing in my notice I had been having second thoughts. With only three weeks to go the owner of the company is refusing to talk with me (and three other girls who have since handed in their notice), the Associate Director pulled me aside 5 mins before I was due to leave to go home and had a go at me for something HE did wrong. Luckily I was quite professional and confident and had back up on paper and all sources, but he wasn’t interested. I again explained in a calm manner that maybe he should keep me in the loop about matters as I always act immediately on major issues. I will be speaking with the MD tomorrow morning as it was totally out of the ble. I felt totally ambushed. It was the MD who asked for me to extend my notice period, but the AD is making my life hell. I am soo tempted to leave early as the AD is making my life hell. He never takes personal responsibility. I just want to leave with grace NOT disgrace. They haven’t organised a handover and won’t reduce my increased workload, so I should just leave them in the lurch.