I’ve mentioned before, in this new place I am now working, I have been having issues at work, but I’ve never really elaborated on it. Today I am going to talk about some of what I am going through and what I have learned from my research on how to deal with such issues. Maybe someone else can benefit from it.
I have a colleague on the same team, who is junior to me, both in the number of years of experience we have as well as in the hierarchy of the organisation. For some reason, from the day I joined the organisation, this person has been borderline rude with me. They would be careful to be sweet and nice when in the presence of others, it was only when they were with me and maybe an intern who was working with them, would the nastiness surface. I was new to the organisation and I didn’t know how things are run. This person had been here for around a year before I joined. Anytime I asked them anything, it would be met with a curt, “I am busy” but they were not busy to chit chat with others during the time they were supposed to be busy. This went for around a month, but till that time it was done very passively. After a month of this, I sent this person an email about something which was not in both our job scopes, but which we had to do to help out. My email to the person was that when they were away, I will step in and the very rude reply I got was it was not their job too and so I was not doing them any favours. I had copied the email to our manager and the reply was also sent to everyone.
At some point, I did bring up this person’s attitude to our manager, but till date, I have not seen a resolution of the issue. I am not sure if the manager has managed to speak to this person, but since I don’t really see any improvement in attitude, I am guessing no.
So what do I do in such a case? I decided to read up and am following these points. It may be useful to others who are recipients of workplace bullying which is why I decided to blog about it.
When faced with a bully at work, we can either leave that toxic environment, stay quiet in the hope that it will blow away or confront the bully. Since I was new, leaving was not an option, I did speak to our manager, who didn’t do much to mitigate the issue and I didn’t want to confront the bully, but wanted to make sure I was no longer bullied
I first stopped talking to the bully. I didn’t interact much with them unless it was work specific and even then, I made sure I always tried to email them with a copy to our manager. This way, any rude or bullying behaviour would be out in the open and also documented since my problem was that this bully was sweet in front of others and rude when it was just us interacting. You could also keep a record of all interactions with the bully and if possible document every interaction.
After you have gathered the information, try to make time with the bully and speak calmly and emotionlessly. I need to work on this as I tend to get emotional in such times, but take deep breaths if that helps and speak to the bully. This approach may or may not work, depending on how the bully rolls, so prepare to take a step back and come back with reinforcements (aka your manager).
Usually, the perpetrator in a bullying incident is mostly intimated by you, either by what you bring to the table in terms of experience or job knowledge or what they stand to lose in terms of how your work will affect their standing in the organisation. I suspect in my case this is what happened. The bully in my instance probably thought I was a threat to them, though how I don’t know and used rude and disrespectful tones and language to compensate for that.
Another thing that usually works is not to stoop down to the bully’s level. It’s very tempting (believe me, I know), to respond with rude behaviour when faced with such behaviour, but I now believe in this, as Michelle Obama famously said, “When they go low, we go high”! Respond to rude behaviour with extreme politeness. If the rude behaviour is via email, I go very formal and polite and when a senior person sees the email exchange, the contrast between the two tones cannot be more obvious!
Lastly, I’d say don’t take this rudeness and bullying personally and over analyse everything (I am guilty of this). It is possible that the bully might have felt slighted over something you said or did, which is why they are behaving the way they do. I suspect this could have happened in my case also. In the last month, maybe I said or did (or didn’t say or do) something which may have been important to this person. Maybe once you figure out the reason why the bully behaved that way, behaviours on both sides can change. I do plan to do exactly that and see if I can figure out why my bully is behaving in such a way and see if I can turn the situation around.
Do you have any other way to work around a bully? I’d love to hear your ideas!