The workplace, sadly, can feel a lot like high school at times. And if you think bullies only exist in the school yard, you’re sorely mistaken. The workplace bully has gotten a lot of press recently. In my most recent interview on Fox 31 Denver’s Good Day Colorado, I address this topic and provide a few strategies for handling it. Hopefully you never have to deal with a bully at work, but if you do, this advice could be invaluable.
Sometimes, the office can feel like high school. There are all kinds of cliques and gossip. Occasionally, you even run into a workplace bully—someone who constantly criticizes, aggressively points out mistakes, and refuses to be part of your team.
Of course, dealing with a bully in the office can be a real challenge. But what if you’re the one doing the bullying? Maybe you don’t even realize how devastating your words and actions can be for others. Sure, it’s important to stand up for yourself and be assertive, but you still have to be respectful and professional and well…nice.
It’s time for a little self-evaluation. Take this quiz to see if you’re being a bully in the workplace.
*NOTE: This download is only available for members of the Free Career Resource Library.
Read each statement and select an answer that best describes what you would do in the situation. You may not find one that describes you perfectly – so just choose the one that works best.
1. A new employee is having a hard time catching on and her mistakes are starting to impact everyone on the team. When your boss asks you how you think she’s doing, you:
a) Say she’s doing fine. You don’t want to be responsible for her getting fired. And if she doesn’t improve, your boss will figure it out soon enough.
b) Honestly let your boss know that she’s made some mistakes but that you think she’ll get the hang of it eventually.
c) Tell your boss (and anyone else who will listen) that the new girl is incompetent and should be let go. Why hide your true feelings? It’s only going to hurt the company to keep her around.
2. You’ve had a personality clash with a co-worker for years. Now, you’ve been assigned to work on a project together. You:
a) Attempt to improve the relationship by doing all the work yourself.
b) Try to put your personal feelings aside and be professional.
c) Refuse to work with this person and request to be assigned to a different project.
3. You don’t really like working with one of your subordinates. You’d like to see him leave the company. However, there’s really no reason for firing him. You:
a) Recommend him for a promotion so he can move to a different department.
b) Put your personal feelings aside and act professionally.
c) Start piling work on, hoping he’ll get frustrated and quit.
4. A co-worker asks for your help learning a new computer program but you really don’t have the time. You:
a) Agree to help, regardless of the time issue. You’ve always had trouble saying “no” to those in need.
b) Offer your co-worker a book you have that might help. You let him know that you’re too busy to go over it at the moment, but when you have some free time in the future you’ll be happy to assist.
c) Explain to your co-worker that you’re not a trainer and recommend that he go to a class if he’s having that much trouble.
5. You’re leading the committee to plan a company party and the group can’t decide on a theme. You have a great idea but no one can agree. You:
a) Carefully listen to the various ideas. You’ve contributed yours and, if no one jumps on it, there’s nothing you can do.
b) Lead the group in organizing an anonymous vote. Whether or not your idea wins, a decision has to be made.
c) Stand up and announce that you’ve made the decision to go with your theme idea. There’s no point in arguing. You’re the leader so you have final say.
Count the number of A’s, B’s and C’s on your list.
If A’s appeared most on your list:
Well, the good news is this: You’re not a bully. In fact, you’re the opposite of a bully. You’re a pushover. You hate confrontation so much; it seems you’re willing to let people walk on you instead of standing up for yourself.
Remember that you have to show strength in the workplace – that doesn’t mean you can’t also be nice. But you have to look out for yourself. Don’t be so worried about what people think of you. You’ll encounter different types of personalities at the office, and you won’t always get along with everyone. You can still work well together however, by being respectful, honest and professional. Next time you’re tempted to roll over and play dead, try standing up for yourself. Say “no” once in a while. Fight for your ideas to be heard. Be professional, but strong.
If B’s appeared most on your list:
Congratulations! You seem to have a nice balance in the workplace. You’re respectful, but strong. You’re not afraid to voice your opinions, make tough decisions, and confront difficult issues honestly and professionally. You’ve got a tough backbone but people likely admire that. You don’t go out of your way to push others around, and you don’t let others bully you either. Keep up the good work!
If C’s appeared most on your list:
Okay—simmer down, my friend. I have some bad news for you: You are (drum roll, please) a workplace bully! There’s no doubt about it. Perhaps you get some kind of enjoyment from pushing people around. Or maybe you just think you’re being efficient. Unfortunately, your cold approach may come off as rude or intimidating. I know you probably have the best interest of the company in mind. However, you need to remember that most of your co-workers do as well. You aren’t always going to agree, so you’ll need to learn to make compromises. And remember: Your co-workers aren’t mind readers. If you need to address an issue, try using some tactful communication. This will be much more effective and your working relationships will be much more pleasant.