Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Workplace Bullies

I think at some time or another we have all experienced them -- workplace bullies. In my humble opinion they are the lowest form of humanity, and deserve less respect than they afford other people. Workplace bullies can -- and do -- get away with anything, because no one wants to deal with them. Co-workers and subordinates cannot deal with them, and management refuses to deal with them. It's easier to blame the victims of the bullying than it is to deal with the perpetrators. So, the bullying continues.

Most organizations have initiated respectful workplace policies, together with human rights policies, but most organizations never utilize the policies. Dealing with a workplace bully is like chasing smoke, and workplace bullies rely on that. They are fully aware of the fact that, the worse their behavior is, the more people will run and hide to avoid it -- including management.

The favorite tools of a work place bully are yelling, intimidation, gossip, threats, inuendoes, ridiculing people in front of their peers, pitting co-workers against each other ... the list goes on.

Workplace bullies can drain the life right out of an organization, and bullies set themselves up as "the only productive worker" in the place.

"What would this place do without me...!!!???"

Well, let me tell you what we would do without you... *heh*

When the workplace bully finally retires, guess who will be the first person to break open the champagne.

MOI!

40 comments:

Russell said...

On the Today Show this morning they had a segment on this very topic! It is actually quite a problem.

I had a lawyer in my office one time who thought she was pretty special. One day she threw something on my desk or pushed something I had on my desk (I forget) and I stood up, looked at her and said "That's once!"

She looked back and me and I did not say anything, just kept looking at her. Finally she said "what?" and I said "there won't be a second time!"

It is one thing to have a bad day but when someone goes beyond the line, then you have to let people know it is not acceptable. Period.

I was not mean or disrespectful to the person -- I just let her know what she did would never be tolerated again.... (I have a tendency to be fairly direct at times!)

Take care.

Marguerite said...

I once worked with a "workplace bully" that wasn't happy unless she was pointing out some tiny error that someone had made. And she did this in front of everyone, in a rather loud way. Since she was the office manager, I guess that she thought that she could get away with this kind of unethical behavior. I saw her reduce some of the younger girls to tears, on occasion. Well, the last time that she did this to me, I made up my mind that I was not going back to this workplace, and I have not. She never appreciated the job that I did for her, but a former co-worker tells me that since I left, things have been in total chaos, in that department. Hopefully, she will learn from this, but I doubt it.

CTVicky said...

Thank you for this post.

I agree with everything you said.

I put up with a workplace bully for 16 months. I had to take two and a half weeks off sick with anxiety disorder because of it. She humiliated me, shouted at me in front of other people, gave me impossible tasks, tried to destroy me. She once used my appraisal as an opportunity to say infront of the senior manager how she herself was the only person in the office who cared about the place and she put everyone else's needs before hers.

My workplace had a bullying policy hundreds of pages long but when I finally plucked up the courage to use it, it proved absolutely useless. In the end I left because of it, like others had done before me.

I think Russell is right, these 'people' have to be nipped in the bud straight away.

scarlethue said...

Guess you read my post today? Heh. I swear there's no bullying here!!

Hilary said...

I'm hearing more and more about this sort of thing lately. A friend of mine is off for a few weeks to try and regain her health. Bullying caused enough stress for her to become ill.

I once had a boss who BOOMED at the women in the office to intimidate them. I quickly learned that when I boomed back, he backed down. I had a much better time of it with him than many of the other females at the time who reacted exactly how he wanted them to.. with tears. Like the woman of whom Russell wrote, some people need to be taught that they can't treat you like a victim.

Mean Mama said...

I was bullied at work once when I was the only female security officer on the crew. I was bullied by my supervisor who would yell at me, pull my hair, make sexual comments and inuindos all the time, and place me in undesirable and unafe locations in order to intimidate and scare me. Probably just to prove that female officers were worthless as he said they were. It took several months dealing with human resources and gathering information to get rid of him. One day he made the very bad mistake of saying something under video audio surveillance. I had the tape pulled and he was gone the next day. I ended up with a promotion. It was amazing how much I enjoyed my job after he was gone.

Country Girl said...

Is the Black Widow Spider still at it, Jo? You haven't mentioned her in quite some time.

Brenda said...

I hope you get to drink that champagne soon! I once worked with an office bully that had forced many employees to have to quit because the boss liked her and she had been there for 20 plus years. I heard after I left, he finally had had enough of her and let her go. It took him long enough!

Thiea Arantxa said...

OMG I hate workplace bullies!
I haven't been in any office yet, but we have some bullying cases in school too, and they suck. Usually the senior students bully freshmen, and in some horrifying cases the bullied student commits suicide or gets killed. OMG OMG OMG.

KathyB. said...

Lends a whole new meaning to the retirement parties...never thought about the joyous pop of the champagne bottle that way!Ding dong the bully's gone!

Deb said...

Oh, yes! Workplace bullies...they exist every where. My encounter with one person was quite humiliating. He swore at me. Said the "f" word. Refused to do what I asked him to do. I was production control manager and her was an area manager. I needed a job pushed for a customer. I was stunned. Completely, stunned, although he had the reputation, believe me.
I marched myself to see my new boss of 2 weeks and he did not believe me. I was imagining or blew this out of proportion. That day, I lost complete respect for both these men.
Angry area manager finally was let go, but not for at least 100 incidents. He may have been brilliant, but he was a total jerk.

Patty said...

Worked with one, she wasn't so much a bully as she abused arriving to work on time and leaving work on time. She cheated constantly, and when I called personnel about her they did nothing. Our boss didn't want to deal with her either. I found out after I retired, and they also got a new boss, she applied for a job in another department and NO ONE tried to stop her and say she was needed in the old department. I think they were just all happy she moved on. They also found she had been making quite a few mistakes in her typing and book work. In my opinion, they should be warned, then after so many warnings, they would loose their job. Because there would be someone else out there willing to work, do the job properly, arrived on time and leave on time. Every office seems to have at least one person that doesn't obey the rules.

Now I would have liked Russell for my boss.

Mary Ellen said...

Oh yeah...the workplace bully! I haven't worked in an office in years, but remember a few incidents...especially with an Irish woman named Bridgette. Lucky for me, I was only working in that office as a Temp with an option to stay full time. I opted to leave because I couldn't stand her.

I also had a part time retail job (The Gap) that I took at Christmastime (and ended up staying because I loved the job). Anyway, the manager, who was much younger than me, used to terrorize the younger teens who worked there. She didn't pull that with me because I made it clear that I wouldn't tolerate it. I didn't "need" the job, just took the job for some extra Christmas cash. Anyway, it turned out that upper management found out she was stealing from the registers and she was fired and arrested. My co-workers and I celebrated with a night out for pizza and lots of laughs. I became the manager the next day (much to my surprise). It was a great job and I loved working with the teens, they have so much energy and will work so hard if you treat them with respect and fairness.

I like the way Russel handled his situation...straight and to the point!

Nancy said...

I dealt with someone like that in my last job. She was so terrible that she literally was the last person standing when they reorganized the department. She also had the gall to act like she was so innocent when she dirt-bagged people who ended up fired or quitting. Often inviting them over for dinner or parties, as if she had nothing to do with the awful things that had befallen the poor worker. She was also my neighbor. I had to live with her at work and at home!

Avril Fleur said...

I hear you Jo. I don't really have any particularly bad ones in there office where I work now, but there are a couple of fairly "agressive" girls. I don't let them intimidate me. However, my last job was another story. I worked in an automotive factory and some of those people (men AND women, I might add) were horrible. I put it down to the fact that they are very unhappy with their own lives and jobs and feel the need to see others miserable right along with them. For the most part I can ignore and avoid them and mind my own business (I am the master of avoidance) but when I lose it, LOOK OUT! I screamed at a few people when I had to stand up for myself and I'm glad I did it. I will never again allow myself to be bullied mercilessly, like I was as a child. I'm no child and I'm not powerless. I do not allow anyone to have that kind of power over me. I don't care if you're my coworker, a client, a supervisor or management. You don't get to abuse me. EVER!

The Bug said...

I worked in Human Resources for 6 years - thank goodness I handled benefits & NOT employee relations! I know that we took harassment complaints seriously & always investigated. But it's really hard to handle such complaints unless they're straightforward & have witnesses. Sometimes a person might complain about behavior that someone else wouldn't mind. But employees don't always report, or when they do, the bully has made sure that no one else witnessed... It's tough!

jeannette stgermain said...

Bullies? Learned early in life that because I am short, I needed a way to deal with them.

What to do, is to show them in different ways that you're not afraid of them. (hubby told his employer who has a habit of yelling, "If you do that to me, I'm walking off the job, right then and there - I will not put up with yelling).

But even more important, I make fun of them, preferrably publicly! (to a 300 pound woman, who told everyone in which direction the "line" should go - NO ONE (very loudly so the whole line heard it) No one can tell me where to stand- and told my 14 year old daughter (whose eyes got really big) to stand however she liked.

- they mostly choose to leave you alone, because you become a pest, and they know you're going to broadcast their ridiculous actions.I doesn't pay to be nice or civil with some people. Although, when I get the chance, when I can talk to them privately, I let them know that they have become this way, because they once were scared of a bully (often one of their parents). Can't tell you how meek as little lambs they become, once you have told them that:)

Ayala said...

My father, Izzy Kalman, has a wonderful guide to stop being bullied in the workplace:

http://www.bullies2buddies.com/Workplace-Bullying-and-Bullying-in-the-workplace

Pat said...

Wow! Sounds like you struck a sore spot here! Lots of bullies in this world! How sad! My daughter works with one, and it's tolerated because the woman does a good job in her area of expertise. So the company puts up with all the rest of her crap. Unbelievable. She feels that she has the right to rifle through everyone's desk, in box, etc. I am a wuss, but if I worked there, I'm not sure how much I could put up with that.

Starlene said...

Amen! I'm lucky to have a escaped a place chock full of 'em!

Leslie: said...

It happens everywhere, even in school environments - one teacher pitted against others or an administrator who thinks he/she is so far above the lowly classroom teacher. My sister is currently in a similar situation in her office, with no support from anyone in any capacity so is contemplating early retirement and then working on call.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

I worked with a woman who pretended to befriend me, then tried to set me up to take the fall for her. This was in a pharmacy and when some narcotics went missing she insinuated that some innocent comments I had jokingly made made me the likely thief. There are cameras all over the place and of course they couldn't ever "catch" me. I was blissfully unaware of the "investigation" and found out about it later. She was the wife of a manager in another WalMart & thought herself to be above suspicion. Imagine my surprise a couple years ago when I stopped by my old workplace to discover that she was the thief and had been removed in handcuffs! I think I prefer the up front about it bully!

robert said...

Good morning Jo,
thank you for reminding me about the time, working in a local supermarket. The boss would call me into the office, to give me some work in the basement, which was always locked. He had the keys in his hand, reached out and the very moment I wanted to get them, they 'accidentally' fell down. Did bow silently and picked them up, next year left and started to study.
Learning that sometimes it's worth to bow, to rise afterwards higher than before.

John said...

I guess I've been lucky not to have experience the bullies. I'm like Russell. I put them in their place one time and let them know there won't be a 2nd time! It was unfortunate, but I had to do that with my partner's Mother, who bullied everyone else except for me.

And I have a friend with s work place bully at s large office and the bully is upper management--an(electd official) and and never retires! She's way past retirement age too. I think she has no plan of returning.

Maureen said...

All my workplace bullies have been the owners, as in those who can't work with others go into business for themselves. Needless to say, I've been fired a few times.

Owen said...

Hope that retirement and the associated champagne comes quickly, very quickly !

Ruth W. said...

unfortunately, my bully is my manager. No hope there at all.

Allen said...

I had a Workplace Bully Boss. She was nice to your face and talked very bad things behind your back. I confronted her and well she no longer works there. hehe

Firefly said...

I am reading through the comments and a lot of them is discribing our workplace bully. Our CEO is an absolute control freak who thinks he is always right and should be in control all the time. He love to break us down, specially in front of other people. He has a year left on his contract and we will have a huge party when he is gone. Half the people here would leave tomorrow if they could get something else because of him.

the walking man said...

You really don't want to know how I dealt with that sort of thing. I'll just say it wasn't with violence but rather by adapting a certain persons writings with steady application.

http://www.chinapage.com/sunzi-e.html

It is a war of sorts after all.

Book pusher said...

Have you heard the term, office pychopath, the behaviour you describe is getting a lot of attention, there are books out there giving advice on how to deal with these kinds of people. My partner had a horrible experience with an office pychopath a couple of years ago, they made him absolutely miserable. I have to say my current work place is the best I have ever worked in, and I have wondered why that is so, there is very little bitching. I remember your post on gossip and I have noticed that where I work people don't really gossip, they might let you know if someone is having a problem in there personal life but not in a nasty gossipy way, and there is only the occassional minor annoyance expressed, the general culture is one of support and respect. I feel very lucky, a negative work place and destructive collegues can make life unbearable. Good luck with dealing with the office pychopath, don't let them get to you.

pranksygang said...

ha ha ha:) you have workplace bullies and in my college every lecture is like that!! :( i would like to open a champagne soon!

Mariana Soffer said...

This post reminded me a loy of a commedy series I watch a couple of times, but I do not like, called the office, wherre it happens the kind of things you describe.
Thanks for t he post
M

Kimberly said...

I like to call them work place CANCER...they spread and want to hurt everything in reach.

Mary Ellen said...

Jo-

I hope you don't mind the "off topic" comment I'm making, but I wanted to let you know I've expanded my blogging to another blog which has nothing to do with politics...but is a cooking blog. I think it will be fun, and hope you (and of course, any of your blogging friends here!) can check it out. It's not going to just be recipes, but a lot more than that, it's a work in progress.

Here's the link and you could also find the link on the sidebar of Bad Habit.

If you don't want this message on your blog, feel free to delete me and accept my apology...just wasn't sure if you'd get a chance to see I've got something new cooking up...ok, that last pun was a groaner. Sorry. ;-)

Mary Ellen said...

Ooops, looks like my link didn't take. I'll try it again.

http://eatinghabit.wordpress.com/

Thanks!

Land of shimp said...

Oh my goodness, as I read your post I thought that you must work with a real doozy, because this has come up before. Then I read everyone's responses and realized how very common this is!

The work I do, I do from home so I haven't been in a typical workplace environment for almost ten years. I guess I'd forgotten how common a problem this is.

Good luck and may there be better days in the future for all of you facing these difficulties! I'm be over here being extremely aware of how fortunate I am, and being grateful for it too!

Amelia said...

Yeah, unfortuanately, there are those bullies everywhere...they are not happy, so no one else can be happy. Sad.

Jo said...

Omigosh...! Thank you for all your comments. It's funny how we all have a common thread of a workplace bully. I had no idea it was so widespread. Our office bully was not at work today, so it was rather a peaceful day for me. But workplace bullying can be demoralizing and degrading for everyone involved. It's a joy when they are not there...! :-)

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