5 Steps For Dealing With Bullies At Work

how to deal with bullies

So many stories are emerging in our news media about unwanted advances and sexual harassment in the workplace. In fact, according to an article in Forbes75 percent of workers report being affected by bullying at work. 

But what really constitutes a "workplace bully" anyway?

The Workplace Bullying Institute defines it as "repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is: threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or work-interference, i.e. sabotage, which prevents work from getting done.” 

If this sounds like what you're experiencing at the office, it's important that you understand the best ways to address — and stop — this kind of negative treatment once and for all. 

RELATED: Zodiac Signs Who Are Bullies, Ranked From Most To Least

Here are five ways to respond if you're dealing with bullying at work:

1. Be the bigger person.

You don't have to stay in a conversation if you feel intimidated, threatened or unsafe. Nor do you need to respond when the conduct of the other person makes you feel disrespected.

It is perfectly acceptable to remove yourself from any toxic situation. Go to the other room, the bathroom, or say you have another meeting (even if you don't!). You do not need to sit there and continue to receive poor treatment.

2. Surround yourself with a good tribe.

You are as good as your best support system. Make sure you have people you can turn to — preferably at work or close by, so you can rely on them for support when needed.

Send a funny meme or text to your friend to reconnect in the middle of a stressful day. Remind yourself that it is okay to "need" other people; we are social creatures and rely on others at times for support. 

3. Don't take it personally.

Try not to beat yourself up over what bullies may say or do to you. Try to think about whether or not their conduct was driven by something you said or did, or merely an issue that is their own that they might need to work on with a professional.

As a therapist, I teach others that bullies often bully others because they feel insecure about themselves. Nine times out of 10, a person scowling or giving you a mean look doesn't anything to do with you, but rather because they are having a bad day.

Think of it this way: When you walk down the street and are thinking about your to-do list, your thoughts are based on what your needs are, rather than another person's. A bully is no different — they are lashing out and often don't even realize the hurt and havoc they are causing others.

4. Be nice to yourself and get out of the office.

Schedule a self-care activity (it doesn't have to cost a ton of $$), take a work out class, go on a nature hike, pet your dog or cat, schedule a massage, or do something that is pleasurable.

There is also such a thing as "nature therapy" — people were not meant to sit in buildings all day without getting back to their roots. Time in nature, for example, can have lasting effects on rewiring your attitude so that you don't take what a bully does to heart.

RELATED: The 6 Types Of Aggressive Bullies — Are You A Victim Of One Of Them?

5. Seek professional assistance when needed.

Reach out and advocate for yourself — whether it be contacting your company's HR person or even consulting a mental health professional when needed for extra support.

By learning these necessary tools for dealing with bullies in the workplace, you'll be better equipped to handle such situations in the future — and you can teach your children to use these strategies if they encounter bullying at school, too.

Dr. Maxine Langdon Starr is a licensed marriage and family therapist in California specializing in adolescents and young adults.