One of the key factors in being happy at work is the relationship you strike up with your colleagues. A good, supportive team creates a harmonious workplace, one where you and everyone in it thrives. However, put one small thorn among the roses and suddenly, you can find yourself in a very different situation. An employee who doesn’t toe the line, who goes out of their way to cause problems, soon infects the whole environment and causes division, fear and stress.
Bullying in the workplace can come in many forms. Perhaps you have a colleague who always takes credit for your ideas, who puts you down in meetings or blames you for the failure of tasks when it clearly wasn’t your fault. Perhaps you’ve been the subject of malicious rumours or you’ve been excluded from meetings, lunches or after-work drinks. Bullies operate in so many ways, from the seemingly innocuous to full-on fury but it still amounts to the same thing – leaving you feeling wretched, miserable and dreading coming into the office.
So how you should handle a tricky colleague like this? Should you ignore them, hoping they might turn their attentions to some other poor individual before too long? Should you play them at their own game and try to get equal? Or should you report them to your manager? Relationships expert Sarah Abell has been at the receiving end of a bullying boss herself, and has written a book, Authentic – Relationships From the Inside Out, that includes a chapter on how to manage bullying colleagues. Her advice is to try to address it as soon as possible by talking. “I am not going to pretend that having a conversation with your colleague will be easy,” she says, “but if you can do it, you will not only be helping your own situation, you will be helping others who are suffering as a result of their behaviour.”
Bullying colleagues are often feeling vulnerable and inadequate themselves. This doesn’t excuse their behaviour but by standing up to them in a professional manner you show them that you are in control of the situation, that you are not afraid of them and that you want their behaviour to change. Here are Sarah’s tips on how to take control of the situation: