How to Manage Bullies at Work |

How to Manage Bullies at Work

Do you know a colleague who behaves like a real bully, as if he were still in the schoolyard? Here’s how to stop him before things get out of hand.


Are we dealing with a truly nasty and ill-intentioned personality or rather an inept person? A real bully will be disparaging, try to isolate his victim during meetings, seek control and attention, adopt unhealthy behaviours and be incapable of introspection and reconsideration. “Faced with this type of personality, you have to step back, document everything, note and postpone any action until later during this period of observation,” suggests Jacinthe Ouellet, organizational psychologist at SPB.

Be grounded and don’t bottle it up

You have to stay calm, be prepared and imagine the bully as being vulnerable themselves, which would partly explain his behaviour. “You have to get behind psychological barriers, create a bubble of protection by saying that these complaints and criticisms do not belong to you,” adds Jacinthe Ouellet.

But do not isolate yourself: share your discomforts, worries and frustrations with a friend or colleague. Text your spouse to get unhappy episodes with this person off your shoulders quickly.

Intervention strategy

Maintain a calm, smiling attitude to respond to the bully with a certain serenity through non-verbal communication. “Ignore the person or stay firm by replying that that is enough, and consult the employer’s non-violence policy and human resources, if there is one,” says Jacinthe Ouellet.

Equipping your toolbox

Prepare your responses, stay concise and ask, “We don’t understand it the same way”, “What do you mean”, “Can you clarify”, “I’m busy right now, I’ll get back to you later”. It goes without saying that such interventions should take the wind out of the bully’s sails.

Leave or stay?

If you have a good ear with your employer and action is taken, things could get better. Conversely, if the employer does not take action against the problematic person, or worse, if this person is your boss, you have to ask yourself if this work environment respects your values. “Sometimes it’s like being ‘unhappily married’… you have to think about getting a divorce,” concludes Ms. Ouellet.

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