How to Handle a Workplace Bully

Posted by Dr. Holly Latty-Mann on

This article, written by Jennifer Alsever, showcases Doc Holly’s guidance in dealing with bullies in the workplace.


Confront the Person Sooner, Not Later

Goal: Act fast to show that your company won’t tolerate bad behavior.

The biggest mistake employers make, according to Gary Namie of the Workplace Bullying Institute, is that they don’t pay attention to bullying until it results in a crisis. When grievances emerge, handle them immediately — otherwise victims will stop reporting bad behavior. Talk with the bully and be direct but not confrontational or emotional. Be specific about the behavior: Saying “You told someone to shut up” or “You called someone an idiot” works better than saying “You’re not being nice” or “You’re not being a team player.”

After you describe the complaints, ask for the bully’s thoughts. Watch their style. Do they blame others? Do they get angry? Their reaction may tell you a lot about that person and whether they can change, says Holly Latty-Mann, president of The Leadership Trust, a executive consulting firm in Durham, N.C. Try asking the offender if he or she would want their spouse or their child to be treated the same way at work. “Often their whole demeanor will soften,” Latty-Mann says.

If bullying has proven to be a pattern, it’s important to communicate with HR about the problem employee or perhaps include an HR official in meetings with the accused, says Sandy Gluckman, author of “Who’s in the Driver’s Seat: Using Spirit to Lead Successfully.”

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