Bully Coworker

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about:

I have worked in this company for many years and recently got promoted. A woman from another department from the first day I was promoted got upset to a point that told me, “Why in the world did your boss gives you this job?” I am in charge of areas that sometimes have to deal with her.

Recently on a day I was off, she stole result of my work to resolve an issue. She then emailed to all managers announcing her success and asking me to implement what she found as solution. I replied to her email and gave some facts that I had been working on this case and what she achieved is incomplete. Then I went on to get to results I want, but she shouted at me for non-related reason! She also caused some difficulties between an operator, who works in my department, and me.

I am not the only person who suffers from her behaviour. My manager and colleagues hate her. But the top manager supports this bully and is the one who hired her. We escalated some issues with her previously to the president and HR and they got involved but nothing happened. I feel humiliated by her and her team. They push me to implement what they want. Eventually top manager will force my boss to do so. What do you suggest?

Signed, Feel Humiliated

DearĀ Feel Humiliated:

Humiliation is not on your face for all to see, it’s a feeling within that you assess others think of you as less than in good standing. You have already made some choice about how to deal with Ms. Bad News. For short, I’ll refer to her as BN. You say that you brought complaint about her behavior to the President and Human Resources, but nothing was done. Your skirmishes were by email and an oral complaint. You decided to fight rather than to be bullied. A war is not won with only a skirmish or two. Cold wars and battles on this front or that can go on for years. You’d like to turn the tables and humiliate her; however, you conclude she is protected by the top manager who hired her.

You have several overlapping options:

– Confront Ms. BN on each occasion she does something out of line. You firmly, without shouting, say, “BN, this is my responsibility, please back off” or words to that effect. Like a broken record, you may need to repeat those words until she does. Coolly stand your ground. You should guard against physically approaching her, less she charge you threatened her with force. If she doesn’t desist, you then request that she come with you to your manager to clear up the dispute. It would be wise to before this to have told your manager that this is what you would do the next time she interferes.

– Inform her when she has transgressed on your territory that you will report her at that moment and request that she go with you to the appropriate superior.

– Log accounts of her misbehavior and then request she meet with you to reconcile your differences; as a rule, I prefer to attempt a clarification of how to interact with the individual before taking a matter higher.

– Since you already have brought an oral complaint of her, isn’t it fitting that you should follow with a written complaint to the same source, HR and president, and request an investigation. This time you ask for action.

– Propose a meeting to HR a three-way meeting. In that meeting, with the oversight of a superior, define who does what, when, where, and why. Also be prepared to specify how future conflict should be resolved.

– Think team. From what you say, your work group doesn’t have frequent skull sessions to assess what has been going well and what needs correcting. That also can entail engaging others with whom you and your team interact to find ways to work more effectively together. Meanwhile, get your ducks in a row. These thoughts are a lot to thing about before you choose what to do next. Think through what is your new role and how it adds value to the work of others within the company.

Taking on a new role is a matter of character. You should expect and prepare to deal with the unexpected likes of BN. Be tough and yet considerate. Moreover, put your mind to work to ways your department might improve its quality and cut wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted energy and wasted money. In today’s language, think lean-management; how less is more. And that inevitably entails how to work more collaboratively with others such as BN.

My signature sentence suggests that you do what it takes to make everyone look good: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Does this make sense to even think of ways to make BN look good and not be humiliated as you feel? Hopefully these thoughts will help you determine how to make a truce or battle honorably. Please update us on what you choose to do and how this frustration you now feel is resolved.

William Gorden