Dealing with Difficult People at Work
Sandra, an administrative assistant at a small computer company, likes many things about her job, but she doesn’t like the way her boss treats her. Sandra’s boss often criticizes Sandra work performance in front of the rest of the team, raising her voice and ordering her to stay after working hours to “clean up the mess she made.” Sandra tries hard to please her boss, but the more effort she puts forth, the more she becomes the target of her boss’s criticism. Sandra questions herself, “What’s the matter? Why is my boss treating me this way?”
The answer may be that Sandra is being bullied by her boss. Dealing with difficult people at work, specifically workplace bullies, is a common phenomenon. Research on bullying tells us that 50 percent of all employees are affected by them. The more her boss demands, criticizes and humiliates her, the less self-confidence Sandra has. She also experiences a continuous feeling of tension, at home as well as at work, finds it difficult to sleep at night and is short tempered with co-workers, friends and family. If you experience some of these symptoms, consider that the cause of your discomfort is a workplace bully.
Here’s the definition of workplace bullying: repeated, deliberate, disrespectful behaviour, which harms the target, by one or more people toward another for their own gratification.
What’s happening to Sandra may fall into that definition. Are you also the target of a workplace bully? Admitting to yourself that you are being bullied by a difficult person at work is a first step toward dealing with the bully. The bully’s biggest weapon is the target’s denial, the person who says, “I should be better. I have to try harder.” A bully will always undermine his target, no matter how hard the target tries. Once the target identifies the bully for what he is, the target can begin to assert his or her own power.
Your second step is to prepare for battle. Be realistic about your expectations. The battle will be a long one–bullies don’t give up easily. Understand you’re in this alone. Don’t expect your co-workers to become your allies. They’re too busy protecting themselves.
Third, begin to keep a log of the workplace bully’s demands, criticisms and temper tantrums. The log will help convince you that you’re dealing with one of the most difficult people at work. It serves as a reminder of the actual bullying that has occurred when your mind starts to play tricks on you telling you that it’s not so bad. Be sure to re-read your log to keep your resistance strong. Also, the log will be the evidence of workplace bullying that you can present to human resources if need be. Document the who, what, when, where and why of each incident. Keep the log in a safe place, where you’re the only one who has access to it.
Finally, take care of yourself. Your healthy mind and body can be your best weapons. Eat healthy foods, and exercise several times a week. Healthy food and exercise help you resist disease and raise your spirits. Exercise also makes it easier to sleep, sometimes a problem when you have to interact with a difficult person at work. Do things you enjoy. Engage in a hobby, or visit with friends. You’ll find that putting your efforts in a positive direction results in benefits for your health and for your ability to deal with a workplace bully.
Valerie Cade, Founder
Bully Free at Work