Sunday, June 01, 2014

How to Compete With a Bully

It’s been awhile since I've written about the human resource manager (and family friend of our company's owners) who personally attacked me at work:

I had run into her as she was walking out of a heated meeting with my boss. Upon seeing me she went into a tirade about how I was the worst manager my company had. This incident along with continued difficulties working with her have plagued my career and self-esteem ever since. This was also the impetus behind my be strong challenge a couple of years ago.

As for the manager herself, she has slowly lost power in my company. After she recommended two of my employees be fired during last year's salary review I went to our President and complained. I learned she’d already informed him my employees weren't up to her expectations and he was now furious. He had told her he would never allow her to fire them and neither would his father or brother. He was angry she was still talking about this. From now on he wanted her focusing on the projects he assigned her and to stop causing trouble in my department. He must have talked to her because she avoided me for at least a month afterwards and hasn't complained about my employees since. I still find it difficult working with her and have to remain on guard or I am blind-sighted when she does whatever it takes including lying to make sure she looks good.

Then a couple of days ago we were both in the restroom at the same time. She told me she had injured her knee in a boot camp exercise program and could now barely walk. Looking at herself in the mirror she burst into tears. She said she never felt this frumpy before in her life. She asked if I ever felt frumpy. Careful not to provide details, I truthfully responded with yes - every day. She pointed out how my hair was not grey while hers, according to her son, could use a good coloring. We then had a real conversation about aging (we both turn 52 this year), dieting and exercise. I ended up recommending she make an appointment with my orthopedic.   

She is now visiting my office regularly giving me updates on her knee. I started thinking this is nice, if she were like this all the time I might actually be able to work with her. Then all of a sudden I was overcome with a sense of déjà vu. I’ve felt this way before. Growing up my parents used to fight every day. Eventually it would get so bad something big would happen – there would be a big scene, my mother would seriously threaten to leave or would leave. Then they would make up and life at home was calm. I would think this is nice, I wish it would stay like this. Of course it never did and I’d eventually wake up to the screaming again.  I then realized it won’t be long before this manager is back to her previous shenanigans.

I thought about her telling me how she was competing with the other members of her boot camp class when she hurt herself. I thought about all the conversations we've had over the years and realized most of them included a competition –  a competition where she did or said everything she could to come out on top.

I was thinking about this today as I read Carolyn Hax’s advice in her column Dad Can't Stop Daughter From Measuring Herself Against Sister. Carolyn responds with:
The only reasonable path Younger sister can take to feeling good about herself is to do the best job she can at being Younger. Using anything or anyone else as a point of reference is bound to fail. 
And so I decide how I’m going to compete with the HR Manager in the future - I am not. I’m going to work on being the best me (a 52-year old accounting manager) can be and not worry about her. She has her own demons to wrestle with. If I’m content with myself and my work she will not be able to rattle me. 
Have you ever competed with a bully at work?


  1. YES. They are horrible. I spend more time at work than I do at home - I do not want to be around mean, cold-hearted people. I can't help but let it affect me - I am a super-emotional person who is also really sensitive. But at the end of the day, this is just a job. This isn't my entire life. If someone turns on me at work, I choose to ignore them completely. I will smile, walk, and talk like the happiest girl on the planet to keep the peace, but it's all on the surface. Anything about me that matters will stay safe and protected behind my real thoughts and opinions. I've actually practiced this so much, people believe it to be my true nature. How shocked they would be to learn what I really think half the time!

    You keep doing you. You're the only element of the equation you can control. And YOU are awesome!

  2. Savvy, you totally have this figured out! You know eventually she is going to turn on you. It's just in her DNA. I have never been bullied at work. I am always totally switzerland. I get along with everyone but I have witnessed it. We had one office worker who seemed to have it out for another office worker. To the point she was spreading lies about her. My boss actually let her go a couple of weeks ago. Any negativity will seep into other areas. I know the co worker who was her target sure is walking with a spring in her step now since she doesn't have to work with her anymore!

  3. Jennifer,
    It is sad how much time we have to spend with people at work. They say we are the most like the top 10 people we hang around. Every time I hear that I think of people at work and get the shivers. Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. A very savvy post, Girl. Whatever you learned as a child about dealing with your parents will help now that you have ID'd it. It also seems like the owner-family is finally seeing what she does, which may mean her reign of terror is coming to an end. One can hope ...

  5. Really great advice. Time spent becoming the best us we can be is time well spent.

  6. so important to not let her negativity get to you. i personally have to work on this, but it's such great advice. just be the best person that you can be. nothing else matters.

  7. I have had bullies at work (when I worked full time). But now I still have bullies in other parts of my life. I'm learning to be self-protective and draw boundaries around my relationships with people.

  8. Esthetic Goddess,
    You are right it is in her DNA. She was out of the office on Friday and the atmosphere was so much more relaxed and work focused. Glad to hear your employer got rid of her toxic employee. Clients can sense tension in a business like yours too and you certainly don't need that.

  9. Chasing Joy,
    It has definitely been a work-in-progress.

  10. You share such wisdom here. I love how conscious and compassionate you are throughout this chapter of your bully-be-gone experience.

    Brava for you!

  11. How sad that someone clearly so unhappy, that could be receiving support and encouragement from her work environment, is instead tearing people down. Thank you for linking up to the #smallvictoriessundaylinky! You have been pinned to the group board. :)

  12. She sounds like a sad woman. These kinds of people frustrate me, I try to pay them no more mind than I have to.

  13. I think we all have people like that in our lives. The best thing to do is just avoid them as much as possible. Of course, at work that is easier said than done. But the important thing is to not let people like that get to you. They've got issues that you're never going to change. You've got her all figured out anyway. Sad to live your life like that though...I wouldn't want to be in her shoes.