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Workplace Solutions: How to Tell if You are a Bully Magnet

Workplace Solutions: How to Tell if You are a Bully Magnet

bully, workplaceThe first time Wayne barked at Annette, she raised an eyebrow and asked, “Bad day? You’d prefer I come back later?”

“Now’s as good a time as any,” he snarled. “You people push for this and push for that. You think you’re the only people who count. What’s this f---ing email you sent?” Annette got up and left his office.

Wayne sent her a stormy email, which she forwarded to her supervisor, Wayne’s supervisor and Human Resources. The next day, a chastened Wayne responded with the information Annette had requested.

In contrast, Annette’s predecessor, Suzanne, stayed put despite Wayne’s tirades, even when he called her a “f---ing bitch.” Convinced she needed the information Wayne could provide so she could complete her report, Suzanne endured meetings in which a red-faced Wayne screamed in her face. When Suzanne finally quit, others asked why she put up with it for so long, and Suzanne said, “I kept thinking it would get better.”

Have you run into a bully? How have you reacted?

According to, 35 percent of those surveyed have been bullied at their workplaces.

If bullying has happened or is happening to you, consider the following.

Fail the test

Don’t pass the test you should fail. Bullies eat nice people alive. They test to see if you’ll allow bad treatment. If you do, they escalate.

Do you have no power or do you have “no” power? You owe it to yourself to say “no more” or “stop” when a bully puts you down or steps over valid boundaries you’ve set. If you allow disrespectful treatment, you hand over your power.

Don’t invite the bullies in your life into your head. If you take what a bully says or does personally or allow disrespectful treatment, you collude with the bully and abdicate your responsibility to yourself. Another’s bullying is not your BS.

Develop psychological toughness

Do you signal you’re an easy target, attracting bullies like moths to a flame? Bullies read people for a living, choosing as targets individuals who wear sensitivity on their sleeves.

• Are you meek?
• Do you freeze when confronted?
• Do others consider you unlikely to confront them if they tread on you?
• Do you signal vulnerability in other ways?

If so, bullies find you on their radar.

The solution to turning this around lies in you. Don’t collude with the bullies in your life who stomp on your spirit. You’re worthy of being treated with respect.

Bullies perceive niceness and avoidance as weakness and an invitation to take advantage. Those who don’t stand up to the bully’s initial attack inadvertently encourage continued bullying.

Don’t ignore the truth

Many try to ignore workplace bullies, thinking that if they act politely or professionally, the bully will act nicely in return or leave them alone. This ignores the truth about bullying. You can’t hope a bully will go away on his own.

You might expect to receive help from co-workers or your supervisor when under fire. Because many bullies reveal their true selves only to their target while maintaining a charming front toward others, and because the rest of us give the benefit of the doubt to everyone until we personally experience otherwise, bystanders rarely help those slammed by bullies. When those on the sidelines finally realize what’s going on, they may run for cover or consider the fight yours -- not theirs.

They may encourage you to compromise with the bully or resent you for creating a problem. They may question whether you’re making something up or creating the problem. They may abandon or betray you.

In short, you may stand alone. If, however, you successfully handle yourself and the situation, you witness a failed bullying attempt, enabling others to see what’s going on.

Would you rather be Annette or Suzanne?

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Lynne Curry, Ph.D., SPHR and owner of the Alaska-based management consulting firm, The Growth Company Inc. consults with companies and individuals to create real solutions to real workplace challenges. Their services include HR On-call (a-la-carte HR), investigations, mediation, management/employee training, executive coaching, 360/employee reviews and organizational strategy services. You can reach Lynne @, via her workplace 911/411 blog, or @lynnecurry10 on twitter.

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