Bully Coworker

Question:

I have a coworker, who I suspect is drinking, and is verbally abusive towards me. I’m last one hired. The manager is friends with her and ignores it ‘cuz she doesn’t like confrontation. How do I handle this and without crying?

Signed,

Bullied


Answer:

Dear Bullied:

As you know, work is hard enough without a coworker verbally abusing you. Exactly what has she said and/or done that you feel is abusive? A first step in confront this abuse is to document · What was said in as close to the words used, · Who said them where and when they were said, · Who was present and might have heard them, · What expression was on her face and in her gestures, · How you responded and · What probably provoked the abuse. Date and document each incident you can recall. Make copies of the log and place one in a safe place.

Second, review what you’ve written. Ask how the abuse might have been prevented. Analyze what you might have done to provoke each one and also note how you responded. Such an analysis should inform you of what pushes you coworker to abusive language. Perhaps more importantly is how do you describe your response. Your response is tells your coworker if her abuse worked. For example, if you saw that kicking a vending machine resulted in a can of soda popping out, you would kick it again. If you hurried to bring something when your coworker yelled, “Stupid, bring that here”, she would know that you obeyed when yelled at and called stupid.

Third, decide how you do and don’t want your coworker to talk to you and also prepare answers for when she speaks nicely and when she is abusive. For example, when she says to you, “Janet, would you please bring the vouchers here”, you could say, “Gladly, here they are” or “You can see that a “please” gets a good response,” Should you hear Janet shout, “Dummy, get your big ass moving”, you could hold up your hand in a stop sign and say, “Stop calling me names. You know my name is Susan. If you want something, ask politely and I’ll do what I can.”

Four, realize that you were hired to work; not to be treated disrespectfully. Your coworker also was hired to work; not to verbally abuse you or anyone. Therefore, once your list is complete and especially if it is growing day by day, you have three options: 1. To bite your tongue and realize that Janet simply talks abusively and live with it. 2. Handle it one on one; don’t gossip or mumble under your breath about it. Rather realize that bullying is wrong and that you can stand up against it. 3. Request a meeting with your superior; present your list both orally and in writing. Ask that you superior do what she is hired to do; to stop abuse and demand civility. You can invite Janet to attend this meeting. Be prepared to have her argue and even lie to defend herself. But you know how you feel and what she has said. You have logged it. Firmly say that you work hard but that abuse has no place in your workplace. Will you cry? I don’t know, but you probably will feel emotional and stressed. It will take courage, but you have a voice and you don’t like to be put down. Don’t expect a quick fix. Janet probably has learned to be abusive and it will take some training to help her know what she does that is abuse. Both you and your superior can help her. Your meeting should conclude with a plan to again meet within a week or two, to review if the abuse has stopped.

Do what you choose to do with the thought in mind that Janet and all of you coworkers are employed to make your workplace successful. Cooperation doesn’t happen on the ball field or in the workplace when one individual badmouths another. Focus not on the abuse, but on the kind of atmosphere that is conducive to working as a winning team. Talk about talk can help; how each of you do and don’t want to be talked to. Talk about talk is the job of your boss; talk that helps make each and all coworker’s jobs more effective and easier, not harder.

Working together is not easy and the way coworkers interact can make you hate to go to work. But working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that’s for what you were hired and that’s the purpose of a workplace.

William Gorden