Bullies, Aggressors and Intimidators – Oh My!

Dealing with Workplace Aggression

Every year, according to the US Department of Labor, two million workers have endured non-fatal violence in the workplace. Abusers can take many forms. Over 40 percent of bullies are direct supervisors, Over 7% work under the victim, and the rest are co-workers on the same level.

Being bullied, controlled or abused at work can feel like a target is painted on your back. What once was a calm, productive place becomes a nightmare. But the worst thing you can do is ignore an aggressive co-worker or boss.

In his book, Preston Ni, M.S.B.A., offers us a constructive approach to deal with colleagues who provoke us in the workplace.

 Ni’s Tips:

  • Keep Your Cool and Maintain Composure: Take a breath and count to ten during which you can calm down and think of a good comeback. If you serve up a knee-jerk reaction, you escalate the situation and actually play right into the aggressor’s hands.
  • Keep Your Distance and Keep Your Options Open: Stay at a distance if the issue is minor. Don’t feel stuck. Talk to colleagues and friends about how to handle issues.
  • Depersonalize and Shift from Reactive to Proactive: Don’t take what bullies do as personal. Consider the aggressor. What is their life like? Do they continually think that they get the short end of the stick?
  • Know Your Fundamental Human Rights: Some of the rights that belong to all of us are the right to respect, the right to our opinion, the right to set our own priorities, and the right to protect ourselves from physical, mental and emotional threats. See Ni’s entire list.
  • Put the Spotlight on Them & Reclaim Your Power: Aggressors point out what they see as your faults putting you on the spot. They try to make co-workers think of you as “other” or an outsider. Turn the microscope on them by asking questions about the issues the provoker raises.
  • In Relatively Mild Situations, Display Superior Composure Through Appropriate Humor: Smile. They may not like it, but smiling can disarm your aggressor. Instead of answering with sarcasm, try light humor.
  • In Serious Situations, Set Consequences to Compel Cooperation: State consequences if the abuser doesn’t stop. If the instigator takes a second to think about the consequences, they may find a new respect for you for standing up to their abusive behavior.

To take liberties with one of my favorite quotes attributed to Confucius: Give a bully no resistance and he’ll abuse you every day. Teach the bully to communicate in a civil manner and you gain respect and a possible ally for the rest of your work life.





Tamera Shaw is a freelance writer for Insured Solutions based in Louisville, Kentucky. She writes fiction and enjoys amateur photography. She happily shares her life with husband Ron, daughter Cate and sage cat, Sophie, who grudgingly shares her home with the newest member of our family – Nieko, our new kitten.


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