Playground Bullies at Work

Playground Bullies at Work

Whether it is the kid from A Christmas Story tormenting Ralphie or another character from real life, the playground bully has been around since before there were playgrounds. A bully is defined as a person who hurts or browbeats those who are weaker. At my children’s elementary school, this bully looks like the kid that used to steal my son’s snack or who grabbed his kickball from him at lunch and made him “come and get it”.  It is the kid that used to shove my child out of the way in line, knocking him onto the ground.  It is aggravating, it is frustrating, and as a parent, I’ll be honest, it makes me want to break out a can of whup-ass. After having to deal with it for a few years and wringing my hands for my son, I am happy to report that this year, I have heard no reports of any bullies.

I can’t say the same for one of my girlfriends.  She is a fellow Proud Working Mom and is experiencing this same phenomenon at work. No, she doesn’t get her snack taken from her nor does she play kickball at lunch. (By the way, I totally support having kickball at lunch for adults).  This friend of mine has a colleague who is giving her a hard time almost every single day at work.  Whether it is making snarky comments during a company wide meeting, or going out of his way to point out her mistakes, she is definitely falling victim to his bullying behavior.  There is no teacher to report this to and just like with our kids, nobody like a tattletale.  So how does one handle  adult bullies at work? Here are a few ideas:

1. Kill them with kindness. It is the oldest trick in the book and remains one of the hardest. When someone is not being nice to you, it can be so hard to smile and act like it doesn’t matter. Bring them donuts one morning, compliment their outfit EVERY SINGLE DAY. Ask them to lunch. Get to know that person and let them get to know you. Make it impossible for that person to say anything bad about you.

2. If that doesn’t work, maybe a one on one sit down with this other adult will solve the problem. Perhaps you have offended this person and don’t even know it. Offering to sit and talk about it shows this other person that you care about the relationship and you care enough to try and figure out what is wrong.

3. Consider the possibility that this other person has something else going on in their own life.  Just like with kids, you never know what is going on at home with another person. Perhaps this bully is going through a rough time in his/her marriage, is having trouble at work, or is somehow taking out a problem at home on you. Consider asking the person if he/she is doing alright or if there is anything you can do for them.

4. Whatever you do, continue performing at work.  No matter what this person is putting you through, don’t let it affect your work!  Work is not a popularity contest and as long as you are out performing everyone else, your work will speak for itself.

5. If all of the above fails and this person is still giving you a hard time, I will give you the same advice that I finally gave my son towards the end of the school year.  Sometimes, bullies don’t respond well to logic or reason.  If they are still giving you a hard time and you have tried EVERYTHING else,  open up a can of whup-ass!

Julia Romanow is a working mom and Co-Founder of  This post originally appeared on October 8, 2013.

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