Notice I used the word most and not all. A few of your coworkers aren’t trying that hard. The worst aren’t trying at all. And some of those folks are bullies.
There are two kinds of bully. The first have specific targets and save their worst behavior for these unfortunate souls. The second are general bullies. They go after anyone and everyone.
The second, while typically louder and nastier, are easier to deal with. The reason is that most people don’t appreciate the behavior. There is strength in numbers. If collectively the group provides these bullies with unpleasant consequences, they may decide that the bullying behaviors aren’t working and try something new (and hopefully less destructive).
The first is the bigger problem. If you are on the receiving end and are the sole target, you may feel more vulnerable to attack. In these cases, you have three actions you should take. Start with the first and move ahead based on your results.
Talk to the bully
Be direct and respectful. Describe the behavior. State clearly that you don’t like it, and that you want the behavior to stop. Hopefully, for those who weren’t completely aware how their actions were affecting you, this conversation might be enough to stop the behavior. As an option, you could add a final element to your message. State what you will do next if it doesn’t stop.
Report the bullying behavior
If the person is too scary to confront or you have already done so without a positive result, it’s time to tell someone who can help you. In most cases, discussing the matter with your supervisor is the logical first step. Alternatives include HR , a union rep, or another trusted manager. It helps to have details about the behavior: What, when, how often, and impacts. This sort of documentation makes it easier for them to take action on your behalf.
Remove yourself from the situation
Sometimes the person just won’t stop the bullying. And in some of those cases, people aren’t able or willing to help you. It’s then that finding a way out becomes a viable last resort. This could mean asking for another assignment or to be physically moved to a work location that’s farther from the bully. It could mean transferring to another department. If all else fails, it could mean looking for work with another employer.
Bullies do a tremendous amount of damage. Typically they won’t change their behavior without some sort of intervention. If you are on the receiving end of this bad behavior, it’s up to you to get the ball rolling.
I have created a workshop for front line employees to provide them with options, in the event they are a bully’s targets. I’d be happy to present it within your organization if this is problem you have.