How to handle an office bully

Practicing what you will say with another person can help when confronting a bully at work.  Credit: THINKSTOCK
Practicing with another person what you plan to say to a bully can help.
Credit: Thinkstock

Maybe they swiped your papers from the copy machine. Or “accidentally” left you off the email about a super-productive lunch meeting — for the third time. Or perhaps you avoid their cubicle, knowing every interaction turns aggressive.

File all these scenarios under workplace bullying.

“Bullying, actually, many times is considered legal, believe it or not,” says Mike Dreiblatt, president of Stand Up to Bullying.

Unlike harassment, often covered in human resources handbooks as behavior toward employees because of race, religion or ethnicity, bullying brings grayer edges.

One complicating factor? Ambition and being assertive are part of a cocktail that usually equals success in cities, Dreiblatt says.

But when assertive melds into aggressive, a bully sprouts.

“When you assert, you assert yourself,” Dreiblatt says. “When you’re aggressive, you’re aggressive to someone else.”

Bullies often target multiple people, he says, but even just one person’s awful cubicle experience can affect company morale – for example, turnover.

“Sometimes that aggressive individual does bring in more money for the company,” he explains.

But his caution for employers? “They bring down the productivity of everyone else in the end. There’s a net loss, not a net gain.”

Dreiblatt suggests first finding out your company’s policy on bullying, if it has one.

Then, if you confront an aggressive person, have another person present, he advises.

“Make sure someone else is there who is able to witness the confrontation,” he says.

And document, document, document. Write down each encounter: when it happened, what happened, who witnessed it.

Many might be tempted to attempt to kill bullying with kindness. Good luck with that, Dreiblatt says.

“The idea that you’re going to somehow buy them a pound cake and they’re going to be nice to you probably isn’t going to happen,” he says. “This person has already shown themself to be aggressive.”

Tips on how to handle a bully

• Find out your office’s policy on bullying.
• Document everything.
• Have a witness if you choose to confront the bully.
• Practice what you will say to the person.
• Create a script for yourself.
• Practice with the person you will have in the room.
• Keep it short. “Less is more,” he says.
• Describe the behavior you find unacceptable, say it is not acceptable to you and how you request that they act in the future. Also say what you will do if it persists, such as meet with a manager.

Follow Alison Bowen on Twitter @reporteralison


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Hillary Clinton headed to Boston for women's leadership…

Former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to visit Massachusetts Wednesday amid continuing speculation about making another bid for the presidency in 2016.

Local

Boston Marathon: Marathoners ready to run, honor victims

Scores of runners will cross the Boston Marathon starting line in Hopkinton Monday and embark on a 26.2-mile journey to Boston in honor of the victims.

Local

MIT student, Rhodes scholar, dies

Eliana Hechter, a student at MIT and Harvard, died, her family said. The announcement was posted on MIT's website.

Local

Video: Car crashes into Cambridge store, man arrested…

A Cambridge man was arrested on gun and drug charges after crashing his car into a Massachusetts Avenue storefront early Saturday morning.

Television

‘Mad Men’ recap: Season 7, Episode 2, ‘A…

Peggy and Lou are horrible, Bert's racist, Don is honest(ish) and Roger and Pete are frustrated. "A Day's Work" not quite worthy of "This Will Be Our Year."

Television

'Game of Thrones' recap: Season 4, Episode 3,…

The problem with the devil you know is that ignoring them doesn’t mean they simply lie in wait. It allows them time to do things…

Television

Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox walk off with…

Red Sox pick up first walk off win of 2014

MLB

Red Sox and Orioles meet Monday morning at…

Red Sox and Orioles meet Monday morning at 11 a.m.

NHL

NHL video highlights: Bruins smack down Red Wings…

NHL video highlights: Bruins smack down Red Wings in Game 2

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox defeat Orioles, 4-2

Brock Holt the difference in the Red Sox' win

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.