Bullied by Coworker

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a coworker who throws another under the bus:

I have a co-worker that not only likes to throw me but other colleagues “under the bus” every chance she gets. She likes to point out my mistakes in front of my supervisor. She is abrasive and I feel she is a bully. How can I combat this situation?

Signed, Bullied

Dear Bullied:

Your follow up email indicates you work from home. I assume since you submitted your question at this time that working at home is a result of state regulations or your employer’s efforts to not enable COVID-19 to infect others. If that is the reason, please continue to stay sheltered in place and, as much as possible, avoid the push and/or urge to get out. I’m following that advice and wearing a mask and avoiding close contacts when out. These rules and guidelines probably will continue for sometime. 

Your question doesn’t specify if the bullying occurs now. Most likely it was when you were in a face-to-face work area when this coworker pointed out your mistakes and was abrasive. 

Since you are not interacting with this bully at work (I’ll refer to her as Jan), it will be difficult to document what she is doing now; however, you might recall specifically what of your mistakes Jan pointed out, when, what provoked her, and who witnessed the incidents. Also note what you did in reaction to bullying at each specific time.   

If, before you submitted your question, you had typed “bullied” in a google search, you would find answers to your question. Workplace bullying by bosses and coworkers is far too common. You will learn the statistics and expert opinion about how its victims are stressed. There are many sources with sound advice, such as How to Deal With a Bully in the Workplace www.thebalancecareers.com/how-to-deal-with-a… Jun 25, 2019 · 50% of Americans have not experienced or witnessed bullying, but 19 percent of Americans are bullied, another 19 percent… 61% of Americans are aware of abusive conduct that takes place in the workplace. 60 million Americans are affected by workplace bullying. Bosses comprise 61% of bullies. …

This source is by Human Resources expert Susan M. Heathfield it gives a step by step approach to bullying. 

We don’t promise to provide better general advice when all we are told is general information such as Jan throws you and others under the bus and others, points out your mistakes to a supervisor and Jan’s abrasive. The special value of Ask the Workplace Doctors is that we respond to work specific situations when we are informed of them specifically. I’m not suggesting that we won’t respond until you do that. 

Apparently, when Jan blamed you for something or pointed out a mistake to your supervisor, your supervisor did not correct her. If Jan did that more than once to your supervisor, you will have to decide if you want to make an issue of her behavior to your supervisor. If you do, it’s time to get specific about dos and don’t you should not have to tolerate. 

So with the limited information you have submitted, now at home are trying to think through how as you say “to combat it”, I see your options are: 

  1. Look in the mirror. Review what you do well and the mistakes you make and how to correct them. So if you are not at fault, just bite your tongue. Grin and bear Jan’s bullying and give vent about it to family or friends. It will continue.
  2. This second option is only good if you have courage and are frustrated enough to act. If you have the courage to really combat Jan’s bullying you should think of yourself as an investigator. Investigation would require obtaining an explicit description of your work situation, what you know about Jan, your supervisor, and yourself. Then getting the facts: How Jan’s bullying affects your work and how you felt about her particular actions and later about going to work.  Get the facts: what happened at specific dates, acts that were criticized, words that were used by Jan and you (tone of voice, facial and body nonverbals).
  3. Confront Jan openly telling her to stop it. Point out that her actions are not those of a helpful teammate, not the way a good coworker should tattle, and that her language is abrasive. 
  4. Build a case against Jan by logging specific bullying behavior. Again bring that to the attention of your supervisor and say if it doesn’t stop, you will take it to a higher level than your supervisor (a level above your supervisor or Human Resources). If you have an organizational policy about what is inappropriate for a coworker, note that along with a written request for it be investigated. 
  5.  Request assignments that don’t involve or request a transfer.

Dominate people are dominant because it works for them. They get favored treatment and if nothing else they feel superior. Working is what we have to do to survive and it’s a shame when we have coworkers who push us around and make us hate to come to work or work from home. Please let me know if any of this makes sense. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.  Will you tell us what you do and what works or not? –William Gorden