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Bully in the Office?

Marion Grobb Finkelstein - Wednesday, July 24, 2013
I have a theory: bullies in the playground become bullies in the boardroom.

A couple years ago, we went out for dinner with some relatives, one of whom was a 13-year-old young lady. In chatting, she revealed that she was being bullied at school. The principal and a police officer had spoken to the three perpetrators and then ... it happened again. This young girl was taunted due to her religion (pennies being pitched at her, and fingers raised to their noses in a Hitler-like fashion). Sad thing was, it was another group of students doing it. The principal was shocked. I'm not.

Bully behavior spreads and if it's not publicly stopped, it's copied by others.
Sadly, bullying on the playgrounds often translates later in life to bullying in the boardrooms. As both a child and a professional, I have experienced the stinging lash of bullies. I have learned from it, changed what I could, and sometimes voted with my feet and left what I believed to be toxic workplaces. But before radical changes and action, there's a lot you can do to manage the situation.
Have you ever had a bully boss? How about a bully employee or peer? Here's some tips to handle them:

  • Keep your cool. If you lose your temper, you lose control and the bully wins. Step back if you need to, remove yourself for a moment, an hour, a day. Give yourself time before you respond.
  • Remove the emotion. As tempting as it may be to name call or burst into tears, focus on the message not the emotion. Tighten your muscles and release, take a breath, and use neutral language.
  • Let bullies know when they cross a line. It's completely OK to draw boundaries. In fact, many bullies will respect you when you do.
  • Remain respectful. Even though you can't stand the behaviour, respect the position. Find something, anything about the bully, that you can respect and keep that in mind. Acknowledge the bully's contribution -- however small it may be.
No healthy workplace has room for bullies. If you find yourself working with one, get a plan and deal with it. Feel free to seek help from authorities, peers, and counselors. You will be helping not just yourself, but speaking for others who don't have the courage to do so. 

PS: want to learn how to ASSERT YOURSELF in bully situations and others? Check out this upcoming webinar TRIO taking place in August

Until next time, here's to ...

Better communication, better business, better life,
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author

Recipient of APEX "Award for Leadership in Service Innovation"

© 2013 Marion Grobb Finkelstein\

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Communication catalyst, author, professional speaker Marion Grobb Finkelstein teaches individuals and organizations across Canada and beyond, how to connect with clients, colleagues, employees and bosses, and how to handle workplace communication challenges to improve morale, confidence and productivity. Chat with her at and sign up for her FREE weekly "Marion's Communication Tips" at
Jessie Sharpe commented on 22-Jun-2014 11:44 AM
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