Management Matters: Limit the Impact of a Bully

Do you have memories from your childhood of a Bully? Maybe an annoyance, maybe terrifying. Perhaps it wasn’t you that was the target but a classmate. e not a target but a classmate. Maybe you went through a phase where you were the tormentor. The childhood Bully is often a rite of passage that we figure out how to deal with or avoid.

The truth is that a Bully exists in the adult world too. They often residing in the workplace and drainusof energy and focus we need to do the job. They are present at ALL organizational levels, in all industries and in all functions.

Bullying behaviors in the workplace involve a lack of regard for others. You know what it looks like:

  • Verbal intimidation
  • Harassment
  • Incivility
  • Teasing
  • Gossiping
  • Physical intimidation
  • Withholding business information
  • Overruling decisions without a rationale
  • Sabotaging team efforts
  • Demeaning others

Rather tan play ‘armchair therapist’ and try to figure out why an adult would behave this way, I’d prefer to offer some suggestions to regain control of the situation and diffuse the impact of a Bully.


Get out of the Crowd - Address them by name in a calm and low key voice and suggest that the conversation be moved to a more private area. You are not obligated to insure they have an audience.

Turn down the Volume - If they are yelling or the volume begins to escalate, remember to keep your voice calm and speak in a normal tone. Many people usually can’t sustain a shouting match if they are the only ones doing it.

Slow Things Down - Tell them you need to think about what they’ve said. Give yourself some space to think about things by then walking away. You can either get back to them at another time of your choosing or wait until they seek you out.

Is This Business as Usual? - Determine if this person often exhibits over the top behavior or if something unusual has happened to set them off. It might not be you – it might simply be you at the wrong place and time.

You ARE in Charge of You - It is your responsibility to take care of yourself, not theirs. If your rights are not being respected, you may have to refuse the request. Others may not respect your boundaries but you should.

Keep in Short - Be brief in your response. Forget about explaining why you are unable to comply with their demand. You don’t want to get into a negotiation.

Let Them Know Their Impact - It can be very powerful to simply state: “I don’t know if you are aware of this or not but your behavior (screaming) is really scaring me right now.”Some people don’t possess the social awareness to pick up on cues from others.

Déjà Vu - A Bully doesn’t like it when they don’t get what they want and may want to get involved in “Round #2.” Simply repeat your stand using the same concise phrases.

Disengage - Without an audience or a target, a Bully has nothing to do! Agree to disagree and depart.

While you may not be able to eliminate a Bully and their boss may not be able to manage their behavior, you can reduce the impact they have on you but taking control of what you CAN control – your reaction and behavior.

Joni Daniels is Principal of Daniels & Associates, a management training and development consulting practice that specializes in developing human resources in the areas of leadership and management training, interpersonal effectiveness and efficiency, skill- building, and organizational development interventions. With over 25 years of experience, she is a sought after resource for Fortune 500 clients, professional organizations, higher education, media outlets and business publications. Joni can be reached at

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