How To Outsmart Office Bullies


Unfortunately, office bullying is 'real' and it happens more often than people actually realise. Bullying in the workplace can come in many forms. It can come in subtle acts or sometimes even in the most aggressive ways. Either way, office bullying is NOT okay and can be very hard and challenging to deal with.

I often compare a work environment where office bullies thrive to a lion's den.

A lion’s den is the place where lions usually live in groups that are called 'prides'. And each pride protects their own territory. Being trapped in a threatening situation is often described as a lion’s den; an unpleasant situation where a group of people turn against an individual (or trespasser).

How does this apply to the workplace?

A workplace that's described as a lion's den does not necessarily have anything to do with the employer or the company. However, it speaks of the people or certain cliques that have developed over time. For example, you might be working for a great company, but you're faced with the following issues:

  • You feel extremely uncomfortable around a specific group of colleagues

  • You feel like your colleagues have teamed up against you

  • You're having a hard time being productive due to your current work environment.

The typical lion's den 'work environment' is often created by a group of individuals who have created their own little territory. When you're perceived as someone who does not fit in that particular group or if they feel intimidated by your accomplishments, they most likely team up against you.

A clear example here is the biblical story of Daniel and the lion's den.

Daniel was a successful man appointed as administrator, with two other colleagues, over 120 provincial governors in the Persian Empire. According to his story, Daniel distinguished himself among all his colleagues. He had exceptional qualities, so the King (his employer) at that time, King Darius, planned to set him as head over the whole kingdom.

When Daniel’s colleagues heard of this, they felt jealous and teamed up against him. They sought many ways to negatively influence Daniel’s job and work. To cut a long story short, Daniel found himself thrown into a lion's den, due to jealousy and false accusations against him (Daniel 6: 1-28).

Using this story, as an illustration, here's how you can outsmart the office bullies:

1. What you need to know:

You can’t escape the haters

The number one thing you need to realise is that being good at your job will always attract 'haters'. You’re talented and extremely hard working; no doubt your success intimidates others. Because let’s face it, not everyone is happy with your success at work. In fact, not many people are grounded enough to see others thrive, while they remain at the same level in life and career.

That's why office bullies choose their victims. They are not happy seeing others do better than them. So in order to make them feel better about their own insecurities, they choose to spread rumours and cause havoc.

They are going to talk, a lot!

The gossiping, backbiting and lies, unfortunately, you’ll have to accept that this is what they are going to do. Because the truth is you can’t control what other people choose to do. Luckily, what you do have control over is your own behaviour. What people choose to say about you, does not define you in any way. The sooner you realise that, the easier it becomes to outsmart the office bullies.

2. Steps you need to take:

You have to master your emotions

One of the most crucial things you would have to learn when dealing with office bullies is to master your emotions. You can’t afford to allow their actions to control your day, your work or how you feel. Office bullies mostly act based on their own agenda. Whether it is to sabotage your work or make you feel uncomfortable. They simply want to annoy you or push your buttons - Don't let them win.

Calmy gather your evidence

Office bullies are quite repetitive in their actions. When you learn how to remain calm, you start to recognise certain patterns which will always cause you to be three steps ahead of them. So for example, don’t confront the office bully with the goal to ‘show them who they’re messing with’.  Hasty reactions will only cause you to fall prey to their schemes and games.

Don't play their game, play a fair one by always keeping a record of everything that's taking place. Note down the date, time, place and actions. Try to be as specific as possible.

Speak to your manager or HR department

Based on your record and evidence, speak to your manager or HR department. Make sure that the info you give is based on facts. Keeping a record only based on 'your feelings' is not enough. It's okay to state how their actions made you feel, however, always base it on actual events and facts.

Please note that if your privacy has been invaded or you’ve been faced with harmful or physical abuse in the workplace, don’t wait, report this immediately.

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Sarah Johnson is a marketing professional and the Founder and Editor of Corporate Career Girl. Her true passion is to empower career girls in the workplace, and help millennials bridge the gap between university and the corporate environment.