You may have graduated middle school many moons ago but it turns out bullying isn’t just for grade schoolers. Sure, it might not be wedgies and spit wads being shot your way, but peer-on-peer crime remains an important issue in many of the nation’s offices. Indeed, it is commonplace enough that experts have been able to identify five distinct “bullying profiles” that tend to crop up in the workplace, as well as provide some sensible tips to create a cohesive work environment.
The jealous type
You’re thrilled with your recent promotion or huge sales scoop until a coworker pipes up from the crowd and sours the victory in just a few sentences. This type of bully is threatened by those who excel – be it in appearance, education, status, even personality – and will do what they can to minimize the achievement or even make their peer feel guilty about their win! The good news is that this is fairly easy to fix. Instead of responding to all that pent up resentment, your employee should elect to be the bigger person. In the face of a guilt-trip, your praised employee should be sure to praise their coworkers for their contribution to the effort or even offer a compliment about the person making the dig.
The one in control
While a green-eyed monster is easy to spot, a control freak is somewhat harder to work around, largely because they often don’t realize their foible. These folks simply like being in charge of a project and don’t realize that their efforts to steer the ship mean that they are minimizing or completely ignoring input from others. This can cause real rifts between team members and coworkers which in turn can really sap employee engagement. That said, there are steps to disarm this bully in their midst. Often, controlling tendencies are borne out of past failures, so reassuring the bully that you are currently being under-utilized and naming the specific parts of the project that you would like to be responsible for can help assuage concerns. While it might be an overkill, you can also offer to build in frequent check-ins so that your bully feels assured that the project is still on course and that you can be trusted to see it through.
The constant critic
Being around someone that constantly seeks to break you down can be truly exhausting. Every idea you share or success you celebrate is quickly knocked down by this fun sponge! While some folks just skew a little negative in their outlook on life, if they are choosing to put you down constantly, it’s time to stand up for yourself. Specifically, you need to let the employee in question know that their constant stream of negative talk is not doing anyone any favors and that if they truly see an error in what you are doing, you would ask that the feedback they provide be a little less critical and a lot more constructive.
The always unavailable
During different phases and stages of your career, you may need to rely on your peers or higher ups for guidance in doing your job. If you go to someone who has been designated to help you and they withhold their knowledge – or worse, set you up for failure – that is still considered bullying. To resolve this issue, try to get to know them on a personal level (as opposed to just as a Wikipedia for your work requests). Then, when you do truly need help with something, frame that request in a way that benefits them. Note that you hate to bother them with “another” question, but that you’ve tried to find a solution and need their expertise to officially guide you. Where possible, try to propose a series of scenarios you are considering and ask their advice on the preferred choice, so they know you aren’t just taking the easy way out. Be sure to thank them for their time and should you need to draw on their expertise again, reference how much you appreciated their insight when you were last caught out.
The double cross
One of the trickiest types of bullies are the ones that are nice to your face, and pure evil behind your back. Perhaps it is a coworker that takes ownership of a large part of your shared project, only to bow out or renege on their plan and leave you scrambling to pick up the pieces, or a peer that hypes up a project but then poo-poos it to your boss behind your back. Again, this one is a bit tricky, largely because these folks are generally so accommodating or kind to your face. However, if you want to mend fences, you’ll need to have a face-to-face chat with the offender and hash out the underlying issue. Perhaps they have felt slighted in the past or are actually a green-eyed monster in disguise but having a frank discussion about your differences can set you on a better path moving forward.