Summary: Workplace bullies thrive when no one questions their behavior. There are methods to end intimidation for good without jeopardizing your job or positive standing with co-workers and superiors.
It is unfortunate that for many of us, a by-product of working in an on-site professional setting means we may eventually encounter the office bully. This person seems to go out of their way to create a hostile work environment and foster volatile relationships with their co-workers.
Workplace bullies are found even outside positions of authority, but typically do wield some power — or at the very least have access to the “higher ups.” This is partially how they are able to avoid reprimand and prolong their reigns of terror. They are well aware that their targets (co-workers) may fear reprimand or even termination should anyone dare to stand up to their cowardly tactics and demeanor.
Sad Songs They Say
Several scenarios came to mind when drafting this essay, but it was a confrontation some years ago that prompted me to put these thoughts to paper (technically, screen).
Monday morning, a co-worker informed me that a “painful” task had now been assigned to my role. Apparently, the task has been (begrudgingly) performed for years by various members of my department.
Come to find out, the person who has been re-assigning the task is perfectly capable of — and has the necessary equipment for — completing it on her own… and this has been the case the whole time! Momentarily breaking my usually calm composure, my co-workers were visibly surprised at my consternation over this little ‘revelation.’
Don’t Bring Me Down
This is not my first go-round in the industry, or in a busy office setting. I’ve had to deal with workplace bullies before. And this particular co-worker is a textbook workplace bully.
Her department has the time, resources, and tools available to accomplish the task, but perhaps lacks the desire. So, they are more than happy to slough off the work to someone else.
She knows there likely won’t be any pushback, because “Well, she works in the company president’s office,” or “Well, she knows the Board of Trustees.” In that regard, my department has been played like a fiddle for years, while hers has enjoyed a grand time dancing to the music.
But wait! There is another benefit to be had. By passing the buck, they are also able to skirt responsibility, so that if anything goes wrong it’s, “Well, I gave it to X Department. It’s not my fault. They should have caught it in QA. Don’t blame me, blame them.”
And so my team now becomes the owner of a crisis she created. What a fine racket! And shame on us, since we are the ones who have allowed it to happen all these years!
Leave Them Co-Workers Alone
Simply because this woman happens to share an office with the company president, this thrice-yearly “pass the buck” game has inappropriately been permitted to endure for the better part of a decade.
In fact, the co-worker in question is the executive assistant to the company president, and the task that has been the bane of my team’s existence for all these years is an administrative function! As the kids say, “Something’s wrong with this picture.”
I Can’t Go For That
You can see, then, my shock and surprise that over the course of nine-plus years, not one person has ever “pushed back.” At least — it would appear — not successfully.
Quite the contrary, the co-worker who explained to me the process actually requested an e-mail confirming we had discussed the project, in case the client “decided to make trouble.” (<– actual quote) Someone thinks she’s Queen of the Universe. And by their silence, several someones are allowing her childish behavior to continue.
Throughout the week, phrases such as “Oh, you know how old so and so is,” and “Well, it’s always been this way” (among others) were oft repeated. The only thing bullies love more than baseless intimidation and empty threats is when people blindly and without question accept their inane whims and directives.
Sweet Little Lies
In a feigned panic and a flurry of dramatics worthy of Scarlett O’Hara herself, I was summoned to this woman’s office for an “emergency” session. Perhaps unbeknownst to her at the time, that’s where her house of deceit began to crumble. That’s when I saw “with my own eyes” that her claims of restricted access to one program necessary to complete the task (and lack of possession of another) were complete and utter bunk. As friends from my childhood home of Vermont might say, “That’s a load of horse puckey.”
I am not aggressive by nature — not an “alpha male” or “type A” personality. But I am assertive, and will not hesitate when necessary to stand up for myself, my family, friends, and co-workers. I will not sit idly and allow laziness and general apathy on the part of one individual to uproot the docile demeanor of the masses, and create an unnecessary upheaval seemingly for their own entertainment. As the kids also say, “That’s not how I roll.”
by Peter P. Gaseoustania