Q: I have a new co-worker who is a real bully. My manager said to give her time while she gets used to the team, but it’s hard for me to handle. What can I do?
A: It’s not fair to ask you to put up with that, so figure out ways to manage it short-term while you identify longer-term options.
The inner game
Take a break from your stressful environment. Let go of anger, anxiety and fear, and settle into a deeper calm. What environment is most relaxing for you? A quiet room or outside in nature? Give yourself some time to step away and regroup.
Bullies’ behavior is all about taking power. However, their reasons for doing so can vary. Your manager appears to believe that your co-worker’s behavior is related to difficulty dealing with change or fear, perhaps, of not knowing what to do in her new job. Regardless, the part your manager is missing is that bullying is an inappropriate response and that a manager’s job is to set limits and find other ways for your co-worker to be successful.
Realistically, what power does the bully have over you? Think about the specific incidents and write them down as factually and objectively as you can. If you start feeling upset, take some deep breaths and bring yourself back to a grounded state of mind. Now look at the list and try to understand the pattern of her behavior and your reaction. If she hits your hot buttons, it gives her the power.
How widespread is her behavior? Often a bully will target someone she perceives as a threat, and others will not see this behavior. However, you may be able to find others who can back you up on the behavior you’re experiencing.
The outer game
The key to overcoming this situation is to take back the power. Some bullies can suck us in; if this is happening, learn to walk away or call her out if appropriate. This puts the onus on you, which isn’t necessarily fair, but is empowering.
It’s concerning that your manager isn’t managing this situation. After trying one more time to get help from your manager, consider going to someone higher in the organization or to HR. While you wouldn’t want to go over your boss’ head lightly, being expected to work in a hostile environment is not reasonable.
Consider the overall environment — is it a generally healthy workplace? Or is this consistent with the culture as a whole? If the latter, start planning your next move before the negativity takes too much of a toll on your self-esteem.
When you’re not at work, let go of this. Don’t ruminate about it while you’re at home, and don’t hash it over and over with friends and family. This gives even more power to the bully; thinking about other things and having fun will help give you the resilience to not be worn down by it.
The last word
Remember that you don’t deserve this treatment; try to get it resolved, but also find other ways to take care of yourself.