Bully in the Workplace: Make Meetings Matter – In Spite of a Bully’s Bad Behavior
Jan is a home mortgage broker. She likes her job but hates meetings. Listen to what she says:
Jan: “Charles bullies me continuously at work. He’s my co-worker but he acts as if he’s my boss—although he’s far more demanding! He belittles me in public and criticizes me all the time. The worst is in meetings. He talks down to everyone and to me most of all. When I try to get a word in edgewise, he either laughs at me or ignores me.”
Meetings often create fertile ground for a workplace bully’s attacks. Since meetings often lack a strong leader and clear purpose, a bully finds them easy to dominate and fair game to use for their own ends.
Consider some additional ways to handle a workplace bully in meetings…
- Instead of speaking first, try speaking late in the meeting. Talk after the bully has spoken at length. Once you have the floor, say, “I have some opinions on the subject, but first I want to correct (the bully’s name) incorrect statements.”
This strategy has two advantages. First, if you speak after the bully and others have spoken, you’ll know what the bully is thinking. This puts you on the offensive. Second, people are more likely to be attentive, because you’ve been silent (or asked only some brief questions) so far.
- Don’t let a bully interrupt you. You’ve been a good listener to others—that puts you in a good position to expect others to listen, including the bully.
- If the bully interrupts you, interrupt him and say authoritatively:
- “I’d like to finish, please.”
- “I listened to you. Please give me the common courtesy to hear what I have to say.” (Then wait in silence for a moment before proceeding.)
- “I have a few points to cover. Then you can speak again—if you’d like.”
- If the bully tries to leave the meeting, use the same comments as if he interrupted you. If he leaves anyway, comment on his inappropriate behavior:
- “Too bad he left. He didn’t hear about the incorrect data he used.”
- Say, curiously, “I wonder why he left?”
You don’t have to accept a bully’s behavior in meetings any more than you accept it when it’s delivered one-on-one. Stand your ground. Stand up to the bully in the workplace.
Valerie Cade, Founder
Bully Free at Work