How to Deal with a Mean Colleague

Adapted from Harvard Business Review

How to Deal with a Mean Colleague

Tl, dr:

– Most people act aggressively at work because they feel threatened

– Ask yourself whether you are being overly sensitive or misinterpreting the situation

– Call out the inappropriate behaviour in the moment

– Don’t take the blame. Many bullies pick targets that are highly skilled and well-liked.

– Don’t escalate the situation until you have tried to solve it informally and with the help of your allies.

– Don’t suffer unnecessarily. If the situation persists and you can leave, do it.

Understand What is Causing the Behaviour

People act out when their ego is threatened. People who are skilled and well-liked are the most frequent targets of workplace bullying precisely because they pose a threat.

It may help to stroke the aggressor’s ego. For example, if the subordinate offered gratitude to the boss, it wiped out the effect of getting picked on by the workplace bully.

Look at What You are Doing

Consider whether you might be misinterpreting the behaviour or overreacting to it or whether you have unknowingly contributed to the problem.

Either self-evaluate or get a second opinion from someone you trust.

Stand Up for Yourself

Do not be afraid to call out bad behaviour when it happens.

Enlist Help

Get help from your alliances at work whether it is confirming your perspective or speaking on your behalf.

Demonstrate the Cost to the Business

Focus the conversation on how the person’s behaviour is hurting the business. Talk about how it is affecting morale and performance. Do not tell a story of emotional wounds.

Know the Limitations

If the above methods don’t work, you need to take action to protect yourself. Not all the toxic people would be fired or removed in most situations. Sometimes, the most tenable solution may be to leave. Put your mental wellbeing above all else.

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