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Dealing with Workplace Bullying

When we were young a “bully” may well have meant someone older or bigger than us (at school or college perhaps) and the physical act of bullying. While these acts can sometimes happen at work on rare occasions, organizational bullying tends to be more mental than physical. In other words, some individuals take it upon themselves to bully colleagues or subordinates by making disparaging or condescending remarks. Some of these are made one-to-one but they may also be made in public to heighten their effect and create high levels of embarrassment.

Even when potentially justified remarks are made by a person’s boss, there is a time and place for these and it is not in the hall or at the water cooler or coffee maker. If this does occur however, the best response is to stand up assertively for your rights and be able to deal with any fair criticism in private. If the comments are simply gratuitous criticism then communicating firmly that there is no place for it and that it will not be tolerated will often stop the bully from continuing or move on to someone else who may be more passive and accepting.

Where comments need to be made by an individual’s supervisor about performance, these can be made in a quiet office environment without people being nearby to overhear the discussion. In these circumstances a person is then entitled to specific and fact-based feedback (and not gossip and innuendo) about exactly what he or she is doing that is below average so that he or she can attempt to close any real gap that may exist.

The featured video clip is a short excerpt from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder eLearning program, Assertiveness: An RSB eLearning Course.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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