[from Chapter Seven “Guys, Guys, Guys”]
If you work with a lot of men, you’re likely to encounter a bully. These insecure men try to get their way by force and intimidation. They use their body and their voice in a threatening manner to cow other employees and get them to back down. They’re quick to anger and have found that yelling and threatening are effective tools in the workplace. In my experience, they aren’t very bright and suffer from a lack of verbal skills. When they’re outgunned intellectually or verbally, they resort to bullying to gain a superior position. They tend to be emotional and unhappy.
Sadly, you can feel sorry for a bully, but you can’t put up with him. Yelling and threatening behaviors create a bad work environment. People who work for a bully won’t confront him; they disengage, and the company suffers from their lack of involvement. Some people prefer to leave than put up with a bully. In many ways, bullies cost the company money.
Some men only bully “down” the organization; they focus on people who are lower on the totem pole. But don’t be surprised if someone tries to bully you even if you’re at a higher level than he is. Some men prefer to bully a woman because she’s an easy target, and they think she won’t fight back. If this happens to you, what are your options?
First, identify the behavior as true bullying. Bullying isn’t just yelling—there’s lots of yelling at work that isn’t bullying. Bullying is when you can never have a civilized disagreement with him, and he always resorts to violence and threatening behavior to get his way. When someone consistently yells at you as a way to shut you up, that’s bullying. He’s trying to keep you from doing your job.
Once you’ve made a positive I.D., choose your strategy. You could start by telling him he’s a bully and see if he can stop it once he’s been outed. You might also try yelling back—not out of control, but really loud—to see what happens. To my enormous surprise, that has actually worked for me. For some reason, my bullies just folded once I yelled at them. I was truly flabbergasted. If that doesn’t work, you may have to get human resources or your management involved. You can’t just put up with it. It hinders your ability to do your job, so it has to be stopped.
© 2012 Jennifer K. Crittenden