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Don’t Bow Down to the Office Bully

Bullying is not child’s play anymore. It’s on the rise at work

Two men arguing at work over the copier

Tensions can flare up at any moment in the office (Image: ThinkStock)

My friend, Kelly Abel, is one of those people you would hire to do anything. Why? Because she will not take on something she’s not going to succeed at and she’ll do anything (within reason) to win. It’s this quality that got her hired to manage a New York fitness center—even though she’d never done it before.

Her new job was a potential nightmare. She inherited a demanding clientele, a downtrodden staff, a history of sub-par sales, and a facility in sore need of an upgrade. But Kelly was up for it. Always one to relish a challenge, she was even excited.

Wildly competitive and energetic (and that’s putting it mildly), she worked around the clock with no regard for weekends or holidays, pitching in on everything from sales to cleaning the toilets when a housekeeper quit. Within eight weeks, a physical renovation of the club was underway and a cultural revolution had begun. Clients began popping into her office to compliment her on noted improvements. Her staff’s spirits were rebooted—a trainer even sent her flowers and a note saying she’d changed her life. Corporate was thrilled; the company president himself emailed kudos.

But not everybody was a fan.

Kelly’s regional sales manager couldn’t stand her and made no bones about it. She complained every time she made her rounds at Kelly’s gym, blaming Kelly directly for not meeting monthly sales goals. She and Kelly disagreed about strategy and she refused to give Kelly the support needed to try new things. She publically criticized her in management meetings and, in private, she stood over Kelly, yelled at her, fingers in her face, often reprimanding her in ways that felt more personal than professional.

“She spoke to me like nobody has ever spoken to me,” an outraged Kelly told me after a recent run-in. “My mother, my father, my best friends, even people who I know don’t like me have never talked to me like that. Is she crazy?”

Maybe she is. Or maybe she’s just one of the thousands of bullies wreaking havoc in the workplace. Google bullying at work and you’ll get a whopping 33,700,000 results. It occurs in every country in the world and has sparked the proposal of Healthy Workplace bills in 18 states in the U.S.

On-the-job hazing, hostile criticism, sabotage, and outright threats are on the rise, according to a recent study by the Workplace Bullying Institute. (Just the fact that there is a Workplace Bullying Institute is evidence enough that the problem is significant.) Managers and bosses are the worst culprits, although lateral peers do their fair share, often driven by insecurity or an unhealthy competitive streak.

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ACROSS THE WEB
  • Albert Hall

    Workplace bullying should never be tolerated. Some people think they can get away with bullying because of their position or or their tenure at the workplace. Until you confront this bully respectfully he or she will continue their charade. Workplace bullies exist because of either insecurities that have been unaddressed or use this behavior to intimidate and manipulate their co-workers and conditions around them.

    • Angelina Jolie###

      definite acknowledgement to all the women of color in technology. There’s plenty of us, but our media usually gives so much attention to the athletes, singers and actresses who deserve recognition, but it’s nice to see a balance. Thank you
      A wide range of Australian made UGG Boots and sheepskin leather products.

  • anon

    At my last job as a mid-level marketing exec, on my 2nd day, my direct supervisor told me that I looked very similar to the woman that her husband had cheated on and left her for. In that moment, I knew that I was doomed.

    During the 5 months that I worked at that establishment, before finding new employment, she treated me like I was worthless. She would create issues that did not exist, even accusing me of having a sexual relationship with a married peer of mine!

    I complained to her direct supervisor, the regional manager, and after my third complaint I was offered a very lucrative severance and benefit package if I resigned. Wanting to get out and also go back to school to receive my MBA, I decided this was the best plan for me.

    Following up with coworkers, it turns out that she was later fired for accusations of stealing and embezzlement. It was never proven, but she was let go.

  • Vanessa

    I went through this for two years (2006-2008) but at the time I didn’t realize it was “bullying”. It was a supervisor who only targeted me EVERYDAY. I at the time was 22 & she was 27. I don’t know why she only mistreated me but her BS got WAY out of control when she tried to frame me for stealing money that I DID NOT TAKE. She used her position to her advantage by using the other workers as her pawns in her twisted quest to sabotage other employees. She made lots of fake write ups on me which were used to get me fired in the end, she got her way. She has ruined me mentally because during that time I was seriously plotting to “harm her” (if you know what I mean). And now I don’t trust any boss, co-worker, or supervisor. I am always on the defense and I don’t get close to anyone in the work place. But the funny thing is she got fired a year later. Her sabotage came back to bite her in the rear end.

  • Xavier

    As a project manager dealing with high profile projects I experienced this repeatedly at work but fought back each time. It doesn’t have to get nasty, but standing for yourself while doing an OUTSTANDING job provides some leverage.

    CAUTION: I don’t hold a job dear so unless you are ready to move on, humble pie may be the only recourse.

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  • Angelina Jolie###

    As a project manager dealing with high profile projects I experienced this repeatedly at work but fought back each time. It doesn’t have to get nasty, but standing for yourself while doing an OUTSTANDING job provides some leverage.
    CAUTION: I don’t hold a job dear so unless you are ready to move on, humble pie may be the only recourse.
    A wide range of Australian made UGG Boots and sheepskin leather products.

  • Poetry

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