- The Office Bully
The Situation: “My colleague, Mike*, loves taunting others. He can be cruel – using foul language, criticising our work and making us look incompetent. He is not our boss, but he’s been with the company for 15 years and acts like he’s in charge. His excuse for his behaviour is that he’s ‘just honest and outspoken’.” – Karen*, 35, event planner
What To Do: Ignore him. Once he loses his audience, he may stop his bullying. If his behaviour disturbs you or disrupts your work, report him to human resources.
Teo Ser Lee, founder and director of Protocol Academy, suggests a heart-to-heart talk with him. Approach him in a calm and confident – not accusatory – manner. “Avoid being emotional,” she advises. “Maintain eye contact and don’t cross your arms defensively or fiddle with your hair. You want to solve the issue, so address his behaviour and don’t get personal. Finding fault with him as a person will only fan the fire.”
The Situation: “My co-worker boasts about being close to the boss. She acts like the boss’ mouthpiece, and I feel like I’ll get into trouble if I don’t do what she tells me to. She even eavesdrops on my phone calls so she can tattle to the boss. I am worried she will find a way to sabotage my career.” – Julia*, 38, accountant
What To Do: Don’t share anything with her, says Ser Lee. “But be civil and try to maintain a good working relationship. Don’t step on her toes, but don’t allow her behaviour to affect your work either. Don’t feel pressured to take instructions from her. She’s not the boss.”
The Situation: “Whenever my supervisor e-mails me, she copies the entire office. If I’m late for a meeting or miss a deadline, everybody knows. I feel like I’m being publicly shamed. I’m not sure if she realises what her constant cc-ing is doing to my reputation.” – Eva*, 30, production manager
What To Do: E-mails should be on a need-to-know basis, says Paul Heng, founder and executive coach at Next Corporate Coaching Services. “She could be trying to tarnish your image, or she’s just lacking in e-mail etiquette. I’m sure those being copied do not appreciate receiving the e-mails either.”
Paul advises that you ask her not to copy the office on such e-mails and to let you know one-to-one if she’s displeased with your work.
The Situation: “One of my colleagues has a tremendous fear of losing out. She sneaks glances at my inbox and watches my every move because she doesn’t want to be outdone. Now there’s a promotion up for grabs and she’s doing all she can to get it.” – Amelia Ho, 30, sales manager
What To Do: “Your colleague seems unsure of herself and it is making her paranoid,” says Annemarie Cross, personal branding expert and career coach from Advanced Employment Concepts in Australia. “You are obviously doing something right, and this makes her nervous. She wants to stop you at all costs.
“Do not stoop to her level – this will distract you from the good work you’re doing. Be wary about what you disclose to her; share only what is necessary for the team. If you get promoted, you may even become her boss, which will change the dynamics.”
The Situation: “Your boss takes her work very seriously – almost as an extension of herself,” says Annemarie. “Her team’s results are a reflection of her, down to the smallest detail. Because she is averse to things going wrong, she is wary of trying anything new.”
What To Do: Propose changes in writing and back up all your claims, Annemarie suggests. Present your information early and explain the benefits. Be straightforward, not casual. If you show her you have thought about it carefully, she is more likely to take you seriously. Don’t criticise her, and give her time to take everything in.
The Situation: “My co-worker, Nancy*, only accepts instructions in black and white. She refuses to help with projects unless the entire discussion is done via e-mail. She makes the team feel like we can’t be trusted. We waste time e-mailing back and forth about trivial matters.” – Rebecca*, 36, marketing executive.
What To Do: Nancy’s afraid of getting into trouble, so she’s covering all her bases,” says Paul. “But you only need to put things in writing when necessary. For minor matters, make it clear that you will discuss the issue in person or over the phone.” If she doesn’t ease up, Paul suggests telling her how her dogmatic working style makes the team feel like they are not trustworthy.
Text: Sasha Gonzalez/Simply Her
Additional Reporting: Atika Lim