How Confident Managers Stop the Office Bully
June 7, 2015

How Confident Managers Stop the Office Bully

by Brian de Haaff

Every office seems to have one – the one person everyone is hiding from and complaining about. You know him — the office bully. He is in some ways worse than a schoolyard bully, sitting on your chest until you cry uncle. He chooses more sophisticated tactics, and can manipulate people without them being aware of it until much later on.

He has had plenty of practice over the years, perfecting the bullying until it is an art form.

What complicates matters is that he may be pleasant, smooth, and efficient. He may have management completely fooled. Behind the scenes, however, he is twisting everyone’s arms behind their backs. Often, he will pick on someone he perceives as a threat — another productive team member that you do not want to lose.

As the manager, what do you do when the office bully is tearing everyone down behind the scenes and ruining morale?

You may first attempt to understand the psychology behind his bullying. He may have low self-esteem and feel undervalued. Maybe he is just misunderstood. You might even feel a little sympathetic and try to build up his confidence.

But really, you are trying not get on his bad side too. You have to admit that he is a little scary. You are avoiding that confrontation that you know is coming, and you dread it.

No matter how intimidated you might feel, it is your job to stop him from further bullying. You simply cannot let one person destroy the morale of your workplace.

Here is how you must stop the office bully:

Stay calm You may be tempted to blow up the next time you hear tales about his crimes against his co-workers. But that response may be exactly what the bully hopes for because it increases the drama. Instead, take him to a quiet place and keep your cool when calling him out about the bullying. You will throw him off his game.

Speak very clearly Get organized, and then present your evidence to the bully, carefully explaining that you want the behavior to stop. If it starts to get confrontational, think about his coworkers who will benefit from your intervention. Speaking carefully and clearly will demonstrate that you are onto his behavior and it will no longer be tolerated.

Document everything You hope that you will not have to fire anyone. You also do not want anyone to quit over an unchecked bullying problem. Writing down the details of every incident and documenting each warning will help you support your case, especially if the employee challenges your decision.

You may avoid the situation altogether and hope for the best, but the situation will not change on its own.

Dealing with bullies can be an unpleasant but necessary task for managers.

Your employees need you to stand up for them and defend them against others in the office who are trying to undermine them. To do any less is the sign of a weak leader.

How have you stood up to the office bully?

Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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