Helping You Cope With & Stop



Staying on Your Feet in the Arena of Workplace Bullying

Doing battle with a bully is a little like wrestling. Wrestlers try to force each other out of a ring either by using superior strength or catching their opponent off guard.  When targets confront workplace bullies, they shouldn’t use physical strength. But they can disarm a bully that is using intimidation—the bully’s strongest weapon—by catching the bully off guard with a positive mind set.

Nothing puzzles a bully more than a positive attitude on the part of his target. The bully is looking for a reaction. Imagine what happens when the target doesn’t react.  Therefore, your challenge in taking on the bully is to act consistently positive. Your task is to react to every “blow” with a sense of detachment.

Leading in the “Ring”

Charlene was the new team leader for a manufacturing company. She had to learn about the company’s products quickly, and she was up to the task. Nancy, a peer and team member, however, displayed little confidence in Charlene. She verbally attacked Charlene, and criticized her leadership. She even sabotaged a sales campaign that was instituted shortly after the team came together.

When Charlene looked at her team during one Monday morning meeting, she saw she was losing them. She knew it was time to take on Nancy, the bully.

The weekend before Charlene put her plan into action, she “trained” by set aside some time for an attitude adjustment. She did things she liked to do. She took her children to the park on Saturday and took a long run that afternoon. She and her husband got a baby sitter and went out to a movie on Sunday night. Every time she thought of Nancy, she told herself she was enjoying himself now and would deal with Nancy on Monday morning.

Monday morning came and with it, the meeting that always started the week. This morning, however, was different.

  • When Nancy arrived late, Charlene made a mental note to talk to her later. Nancy frequently arrived after meetings had begun, and Charlene told her privately after the team meeting that this behavior wasn’t acceptable. Nancy looked surprised, grumbled and walked away.
  • When Charlene handed out a strategy already agreed to by the team, Nancy sighed loudly and said under her breath, “This will never work.” Charlene countered with “I’m sorry, Nancy. I couldn’t hear you.” Nancy didn’t repeat her complaint.
  • When Nancy interrupted with a foolish question, Charlene answered her with a brief, concise statement and went back to what she was saying without missing a beat.

Throughout the meeting, Charlene held the upper hand. Nancy saw she couldn’t shake her. Charlene maintained a relaxed posture and always responded positively. She didn’t show Nancy any enthusiasm, but she wasn’t rude either.

This wasn’t the end of Nancy’s bullying ways, however. Two days later Nancy came in “swinging” again. Charlene persisted. She continued to respond in a positive manner:

  • She gave Nancy direction and feedback clearly, honestly and in short, simple sentences. Bullies often take advantage of rambling explanations to act puzzled or ask questions on insignificant points.
  • She used humor to make light of Nancy’s attacks. Even when Nancy was vicious, Charlene responded as if she were quietly amused instead of offended.
  • She asked Nancy questions, like, “What is it about making an in-person call that you don’t understand?” or repeated her statement instead of trying to convince Nancy by explaining.

Most importantly, Charlene maintained her positive approach. Her face and body looked relaxed. Nancy and others saw it. Little by little, Nancy bullied less often. She never became an ally; occasionally, she still went on the attack.

But Charlene remained true to her mission. Like the victorious wrestler, her opponent could not force her out of the ring. Charlene had learned the advantages of a positive approach.


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2 responses to “Staying on Your Feet in the Arena of Workplace Bullying”

  1. Leo says:

    I work in a mental health dept. helping families and children. I have not only been bullied, I have been mobbed not only from the people in my office but by leadership! They joined the mobbers by investigating me based on lies and things taken out of content. I was not allowed to provide evidence during the investigation, I was only allowed to provide yes and no answers. I planned on being promoted to run the center but the mobbers won that battle. I am currently working with the Union but unsure if they know how to tackle this, just like my leadership.I know who I am and I know who the bullies are, so I do my best to be positive. I have a lot to be thankful for and I think on those things often. I have too because I get bullied everyday at work. I think their next plan is to get me fired or I quit all together. Either way I win but the families and children that we serve will not!

  2. clareta king says:

    I (a black woman) was bullied by a Global Head (a white man) of a global bank based in the UK. HR did not support me. The formal grievance HR advised I file against the bully was not upheld and ruled against me. I took all the positive and necessary steps to resolve the issues. Overtly abusing procedures, HR threatened me with termination of my employment and many other things. I reported the issues to the head of the bank but HR continued with their threats and bad behaviour towards me. The union refused to assist me although I was a full paying member. The union stated that my evidence made my case untenable and that I had no rights to receive support from the union. I had not provided the union with evidence and asked them to clarify their reasons for non provision of support when I had not supplied them with any evidence. To date, after many months, the union has not been able to answer my queries. After a number of other disgusting incidents by the Global Head and HR personnel, I was left with the option to seek justice by filing my case with the Employment Tribunal.

    Tackling bullies is never a straight-forward process, especially in my case where the global bank, its solicitors and the union are against me and openly fighting me even with the hard evidence I have against all of them which they are trying to prevent from going to court and becoming public. The evidence I have against the 3 institutions is compelling. HR personnel have literally told lies. The global head has told lies. The solicitors have told lies. Union officials have told lies. All against one black woman who did nothing wrong.

    Jounalists have offered me payment for my story as, according to one journalist, the public and shareholders of this global bank have a right to know what has been going on and that I could be the victim who saves all potential victims from undergoing the disgusting incidents I have been for over one year now. It will be only a matter of time before I sell my story to the highest bidder.

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Valerie Cade, CSP is a Workplace Bullying Expert, Speaker and Author of "Bully Free at Work: What You Can Do To Stop Workplace Bullying Now!" which has been distributed in over 100 countries worldwide. For presentations and consulting on workplace bullying prevention and respectful workplace implementation, go to

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