If you thought that the end of your schooling days also meant the end of interpersonal drama, you are oh so damn wrong.
For some people, school was just the training grounds before they complete their metamorphosis and emerge from their cocoons as a fully-grown office bully. In my experience, they come in two distinct flavours:
FLAVOUR 1: THE MOUTH BREATHER FROM THE SOUTH OF HELL
These are the classic schoolyard bullies who have evolved to use their words now that they are adults, instead of their fists. They will push you around, ridicule you, put you down – basically everything Rick Astley said he’d never do.
These kind are the types who would tell you that your idea is stupid, badmouth you to the other colleagues, or use their superior position to make life hell for you, just because they can.
FLAVOUR 2: THE MASSIVE PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE PAIN IN THE TAINT
If these people had a ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ styled personality alignment, they would fall under “Lawful Evil”. They aren’t technically doing anything wrong, which makes it all the more infuriating because it is so difficult to call them out on it.
These are the people who, after seeing you clock in two minutes late, would send a company-wide email reminding everyone to be punctual. The people who would see you casually checking your phone at your desk, and then promptly report you to the manager for slacking off on company time.
The worst part is that when you encounter these office bullies, punching them in the face wouldn’t get you a slap on the wrist and a suspension from school – it would mean the end of your career as you’re promptly fired from your job and slapped with multiple charges for assault.
Suffice it to say that it will do you good to learn how to deal with these creatures. Most of the time, it is best to let the small things slide. But when it becomes a weight on your mind or when it starts to affect your work, it’s time to take action:
ONE: Do Not Retaliate
As much as you might want to strike back like The Empire (ya know, Star Wars The Empire Stirkes Back?), verbally or physically, it is in your long-term best of interest to hold it back. Telan…telan lah…chill bro…
What to do instead: Breathe in deep, and slowly exhale while counting to ten. The most important thing when dealing with an office bully is to keep your professional cool. If they find that your reaction is not what they are expecting; it will discourage them of their terrible behaviour. Hopefully…
TWO: Seek an Understanding
Sometimes we can get too caught up in our own point of view that we may falsely label colleagues with legitimate grievances as office bullies. Find a place where you can speak privately and see if you can understand why the other party is treating you the way they are.
Let them speak first; and when it’s your turn, instead of refuting their points one by one, focus on sharing how their actions make you feel. For example, instead of, “Extended lunch hour? I came back at 1:02pm on the dot, you dumb ***”, try: “It really affects me negatively when you disparage me in front of everyone.”
Key point is to not retaliate with words or sentences that are just as confrontational as the other person’s. Don’t wanna get to that level too right?
THREE: Negotiate a Peace
If everyone involved manages to put their egos aside and act like adults, this is where it ends. You say your thank you’s and get back to work with a new found appreciation and understanding between you and your colleagues.
Peacemakers can come in all shapes and sizes, like a round of fizzy drinks (alcoholic maybe? Cause alcohol seems to work well in bringing down defence mechanisms haha) or maybe a adequately informed mediator (a 3rd handle colleague who is sitting on the fence) of the situation who hangs around to liven up the mood.
But if that doesn’t work, then it’s time to move on to the next step.
FOUR: Negotiate a Time and Place
When you know that things have escalated beyond your ability to handle, it’s time to bring things up to the managerial level. If your bully is the manager, then go another level higher. If your bully is your company’s big boss, then it’s probably a good idea to find somewhere else to work.
Depending on the company you work for, there may or may not be a formal conflict resolution session where you will be invited to share your grievances with a mediator, who will lay down the law at the end of the session and bring you both to an agreement. This will put an end to the whole affair.
One thing that’s important to remember is to compromise. Things may not always work out entirely in your favor, and that’s how the professional world works: you take some, you give some. So always remember the golden rule:
Treat others the way you would like to be treated.
And also that we colleagues are all in the same yellow submarine.
Punch holes and we all sink.
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