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Deal with the office bully to create a positive work environment

Establishing mutual respect and making sure you can both trust each other is essential when trying to get along with your coworkers. When there is an office bully, there are certain techniques and ways you should approach them when trying to come to an agreement so that both of your goals are met, and you establish a positive work environment. Disarm the office bully with this expert advice that will serve as solid negotiating skills for any conflict resolution.


Do ask to meet with the bully in private

When you can meet with an adversary one-on-one, you remove their fear of judgment by others. Generally a bully will be less harsh and more likely to be vulnerable when there isn’t an audience. Explain that you are appreciative of their time, and would like to develop a better relationship with them. Ask them how you can help that to occur, so that you can see where you stand in order to strengthen your relationship with them.

Do be curious and compassionate

When people behave in a threatening way, chances are they are feeling threatened themselves. That threat may not be genuine, but their perception is that the threat is indeed real. Find out what the bully fears by showing your honest curiosity. For example, “Jay, I noticed you reacted negatively yesterday toward my opinion on the new position. What would the position have to have so that it brings value to you?” or “Jennifer, I know you are not in favor of the initiative, and I want to better understand what you are most opposed to.”

Do sit on your ego

When you meet with an adversary, let them have the stage. Ask thoughtful questions and say nothing. Listen only. Develop a forgiving attitude because in reality, most people are doing the best they can. Be kind to unkind people, because they probably need it most.

Do agree on mutual goals whereby you both benefit

Committees, teams and new initiatives fall apart when there isn’t shared buy-in. Add a bully to the mix and it can be volatile. Show the person that you are flexible on your goals. Ask what his or her goals are and demonstrate that you see how that brings value to the company. Suggest a concession on your part that shows your willingness to work together.

Do make sure you both know who does what in the next steps

Confirm that you are in agreement on how you will work together moving forward, making sure that nothing has been overlooked. Ask him or her how you both will know if the agreement is working. Itemize the specifics and list of concessions to verify all conditions and terms of what will happen in the future. Review any to-do lists with deadlines for any issues. Ask when you can meet again to reinforce the relationship and agreement.


Do not become a bully yourself

Bullying the bully never got anyone anywhere but more battered. The bully is meaner than you are and will undoubtedly win that battle, embarrassing you in the process because they are more than likely slicker at the passive aggressive nature of bullying than you are. They have had a lot of practice. Besides, you want to be able to get along with the bully in order have a better work environment. So make sure that you don’t become the bully.

Do not use “You” statements

Refer to everything in terms of yourself. Use “I” versus “You” when talking. This way the bully is not feeling the finger of blame pointing his way. He or she hears you taking responsibility and is more open to listen to possibilities. “You” statement put people immediately on the defensive. They shut down and it is close to impossible to move forward when they feel they need to defend themselves. Instead of saying “You didn’t listen,” say, “I am sorry I must not have explained this clearly.”

Do not use negatives

Instead of using negatives, focus on the positives. When you must use negatives words such as can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, and don’t, use them sparingly. When you converse from a negative posture the bully will as well. Speaking from a positive perspective puts the listener in a positive frame of mind and the movement in this direction will pull in his positivity as well. If he or she remains negative - hold firm to positive statements, they will come around. Instead of saying, “ I can’t do that,” try “I have a few other options I’d like to get your opinion on.”

Do not ever use “But”

Eliminate “but” from your vocabulary. It signals that you are making excuses or there is a big concession request to follow. For example: “Our production costs are high, but so are our supplier costs.” People stop listening to anything you have to say after “but.” Instead say, “Our costs are high, and the supplier charges XXX for these materials.”

Do not speak negatively about the bully behind his/her back

You are trying to establish a history of trust and shared purpose. Everything that you may try might be to no avail. You still should not degrade the bully to others. You want to remain true to your values of mutual trust and respect. You want to demonstrate everything that you are and not stray from that in retaliation for another person’s bad behavior. Be known as the leader who took the high road. Focus on doing your own good work. Be the person people turn to when they are feeling bullied or fearful. In time, the bully may turn your way as well.

Jumping cartoon

Dealing with a bully is like any negotiation. You must establish mutual trust and respect. You must identify and eliminate their primary fear by being curious and compassionate. You can then create shared goals and purpose. And you identify how you will evaluate if the process is working moving forward. Do this, and you may turn the office bully into a buddy.

More expert advice about Managing Your Career as an Employee

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Mary Lee GannonPresident

With more than 16 years of experience as the President of organizations with up to $26 million in assets, Mary Lee Gannon helps people reinvent their lives, organizations and businesses so that they can have a lucrative and balanced life. She is...

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