Holding Bullies Accountable

by Jul 21, 2012

Bullies are people who seek power and control over others. They look for ways to dominate the people they deal with, and they use their evil bullying tactics to overcome you. But who allows the bully to dominate? You do.

Bullies behave as badly as they are allowed to behave. Most often, other people you work with are too scared to say anything to the bully, and managers and HR don’t always see the bullying happening. If they do, they choose to ignore it because they don’t know how to deal with it, and they don’t know how damaging it is to you and the organization. So bullies are left to run rampant – but they only run over the people who lay down flat in the street.

So it’s up to you to get out of the street and put a stop sign up. You must protect yourself. You must hold the bully accountable for his or her actions.

Point out the bully’s behavior to him or her, and do it in front of other people. During the next staff meeting try: “Why don’t you try to talking to me with a less harsh tone. That statement came out pretty sharply, and I’m sure you didn’t mean to speak to me like that.” You can also try a more assertive tactic: “You need to speak to me with more respect,” or, “From now on, when you speak to me try to be more polite.” Again, be sure to do this is front of other people – so you have witnesses, and so you have protection. More than likely, the bully will not retort.

The key here is that while we normally tell people not to use the word “you” when addressing others, the bully needs to hear it.

For example, “You make me feel…” is not the proper way to talk to a loved one. It causes us to shut off our ears and stop listening, because it’s evaluative and accusatory. “I feel…” is much better and has a much greater likelihood the person you are talking to will continue listening.

But, when talking to a bully, if you say, “I feel like you take advantage of me,” the bully will say, “That’s your problem.” If you say, “You are taking advantage of me. From now on I will not cover you on your extra long lunches,” the bully is likely to take the information in. He or she may not like it, but too bad. You are standing your ground.

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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