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Need a coping strategy for working with a bully

(22 Posts)
Coincidenceschmoincidence Fri 05-Jun-15 19:46:15

It's hideous. I'm now in a position of having to work closely with someone I can't stand who's been promoted to my level. She's sneaky, untrustworthy and picks weaker people off one by one. She's sickly sweet to most people and absolutely vile to or blanks others. Makes horrible, judgemental personal remarks about them. Basically a school bully grown up.

I've not been on the receiving end, other than a couple of attempts to stitch me up, which I slammed her for, and I think she knows I've got her measure. I need to be able to work with her, ideally we need to get on, as I do with everyone else, but I cannot befriend someone who treats others badly. She's probably no fan of mine either.

Unfortunately my boss has some similar traits, loves her and excuses her behaviour as healthy ruthlessness. I cant leave at the moment as I'm in the middle of studying for qualifications. I'm just hoping she'll eventually hang herself (metaphorically speaking!) Has anyone else had to deal with this crap and got any advice? There's no formal hr dept to go to.

handfulofcottonbuds Fri 05-Jun-15 19:52:27

It's horrible isn't it? I'm going through this too, only the bully is my boss and I have finally taken it to a formal stage as I cannot put up with it anymore.

In your case, you don't need to befriend her, just remain professional with her and don't discuss anything about your private life.

Keep a journal, if she says or does anything that is unprofessional, note it down, you may need it later.

If she is nasty about others to you then a quick, "I don't feel the same and I'd rather not get involved in gossip" or something like that.

GoatsDoRoam Fri 05-Jun-15 20:53:10

Keep a low profile: professional, and don't try to outwit her (bullies have endless energy for that stuff).

Keep all communication in writing.

Leave the job as soon as you are able.

You can't win, with people like that. So don't try. Just keep things simple and traceable. And leave asap.

Jackw Fri 05-Jun-15 21:13:04

Be polite on the surface but keep your barriers up. Social chit chat and essential professional conversations but absolutely no heart to hearts and don't reveal any personal or professional information that you don't want broadcast or twisted. Get as much as possible in writing e.g follow up conversations with emails "as discussed, I will do ......, you will do ......" . Keep a record of any incidents of bullying, dishonesty, manipulation etc, in case you do need to take out a grievance or defend yourself in the future. If you need to challenge her do it in front of witnesses so that she can't run to your manager with exaggerations/lies. Try and keep calm when challenging.

As you can probably tell, I've been through it. She got promoted (!) so at least I don't have to deal with her on a day to day basis any more.

Coincidenceschmoincidence Fri 05-Jun-15 21:54:34

Goats, I was saying to a friend how I don't have the mental capacity for all that manipulation. I'm a bit in awe of how she manages to be one step ahead all the time. It's a Machiavellian skill and a half.

I do try and keep my personal life to myself. She's always asking - quite personal stuff sometimes which I deflect. She remembers everything and will bring things up months on. A colleague was freaked out when she casually mentioned she'd googled her husband on his work website to see what he looked like confused

She also started to try and infiltrate my social group at one point but fortunately they saw through her and I've kept her out. This would sound bloody awful if it were anyone else but trust me that she's horrible, a proper Wendy in the mumsnet sense!

I think I'll need to get qualified and dust off my cv if she's there to stay. It's miserable and exhausting watching your back all the time and I don't want to give her the head space either. I'm trying to keep notes in case it turns nasty.

handfulofcottonbuds Fri 05-Jun-15 22:03:01

She sounds very insecure and wanting to be liked. No social skills, normal people wouldn't google a colleague's husband and then tell them shock

Sounds like you're doing the right thing, try and enjoy your weekend smile

Nellagain Fri 05-Jun-15 22:08:30

I've left the place where I had to work with someone like this. All I can suggest is very strong boundaries, keep everything professional. I wouldn't even discuss the evening tea.
Be absolutely straight in your dealings with her. You can only be manipulated if you allow yourself to be manipulated. Do not let them think you are a pushover. (As you have done )
It takes a lot of energy to have to deal with them bit despite what people say eventually you do find that a lot of people see right through them.

Coincidenceschmoincidence Fri 05-Jun-15 22:32:23

Handful, I know! Bet she's done it with dp too. Xh has quite a high profile job and appears in the press a fair bit so that's a bloody gift for her. She probably knows as much about him as me these days!

She is insecure, very much so. She needs attention and affirmation constantly. I could deal with this if her coping strategies didn't include total character assassinations of others.

Momzilla82 Fri 05-Jun-15 22:39:08

All of what has been said above is great advice. But two things to add:

1) don't get sucked into thinking that they're right and you are the one with the problem. Beware as this can be quite pervasive in the culture you describe where your manager seems to validate and allow her behaviour. It can become quite damaging to self esteem to work in a place where the prevailing wisdom is their way is correct.

2) never underestimate the extent to which other people in the business will know what is going on. They're probably also terrified by her, and know she is a nightmare. By remaining professional and rising above it- you are showing mettle. Once they've moved onto their next job/victim people will remember how you handled yourself

Finally- make sure you have a life outside of work so you can put it in a healthy context. Yes it's crap, a terrible situation, all too common, but it doesn't define you as a person or your worth. She doesn't get to do that. Surround yourself with people who value you.

guineawigs Fri 05-Jun-15 22:43:24

In this situation it's all about survival therefore my advice is always to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Make nice to her even if it chokes you, but don't be clingy and don't be available if she ever tries to socialise with you. Let her think you like her and she may well leave you alone.

I know a few people like this and 10 minutes of polite and feigned interest chitchat is worth it's weight in gold if it keeps you off their radar for people to pick on.

Topseyt Fri 05-Jun-15 22:52:42

I once worked with someone very like this. I looked for a new job, and once I had one I just relaxed for the last few weeks, giving as good as I got.

I had a few mental coping strategies, the main one if which was to imagine her standing there when suddenly all of the clothes she was wearing disappeared, leaving her totally starkers and mortified.

It always kept me amused, and she would find it frustrating that she could no longer wind me up.

Consider moving to a different role? Think of her in weird clothes, odd coloured hair etc.

Good luck. I hope you find a way to control things or get a new job, whichever is best.

Botanicbaby Fri 05-Jun-15 23:04:33

great advice there from momzilla82 esp the last para about putting it into a healthy context. It is indeed a crap, common situation but you can choose how you handle it.

I'm in a similar situation and it is frustrating, in fact I will admit that it was eating me up until my wise friends said to stop letting it. Not easy when your own manager seems to condone their behaviour or else doesn't see through it and thinks they are the innocent party! I would say don't change who you are and don't walk on eggshells but def keep your distance, personal and professional, as others have said upthread.

handfulofcottonbuds Fri 05-Jun-15 23:10:13

I dug my own grave at the first meeting with my bully boss 2 years ago. She was bitching and being so nasty about others and I said I'm in a professional workplace, here to do a job and I don't get involved with talking about others. From then my working life became hell.

I also worked with someone who did the same thing as your bully, looking up DPs etc on social media, finding out what staff did in their private lives. I blocked her from everything before she got a chance to do it to me. Make sure you and your DPs social media is security tight.

I hate bullies angry

Coincidenceschmoincidence Sat 06-Jun-15 08:46:41

Thank you. I'm not so much scared of her personally (although the possibility of a false grievance against me worries me) but scared of her potential to drive decent, competent, nice people out of the business by making their lives hell. This has happened once and is on the verge of happening again. It's awful to see.

I've noticed how she has a small core of work friends who are all a little vulnerable in some way - much younger than her, on a lower level and easily influenced. She doesn't click with her logical peer group at all. Luckily I do and have lots of support from people who can see this playing out. None of us can do anything though other than be on guard.

The massive concern is that the head of our area is enabling this behaviour and has actively promoted this person despite a history of behaviour that would have got others sacked, and there's really nowhere to go with that. hmm I feel like whistleblowing but I'd definitely need to leave if that happens.

BrowersBlues Sat 06-Jun-15 09:04:15

Try to accept that the head in your area is a poor leader and almost needs to be pitied. The head probably can't stand her but hasn't got the balls to stand up to her.

Have you ever tried mindfullness as a strategy to help you cope? I was in your situation a couple of years ago. My boss is a narcissist bully who was making my life hell. I had to find a strategy to deal with it as it was occupying my every waking moment. I was off work for 3 months.

I read a book about mindfulness and how it can help people deal with workplace bullying. Look up mindfulness. It takes a bit of practice but it is worth it.

This all happened to me about 3 years ago and now I am actually glad that it happened because I learned a skill that is invaluable. I still work with that person but I let his behaviour go straight over my head. He can no longer affect me. I am enjoying myself at work again.

Coincidenceschmoincidence Sat 06-Jun-15 10:15:41

Browers, thank you, funnily enough we were only just discussing mindfulness last night and dp was teaching me the breathing, he said he has a really good book on it so I will investigate. I'll need to teach everyone else then. grin

handfulofcottonbuds Sat 06-Jun-15 10:30:14

I've done a course on it and can highly recommend it. There were a couple of times when I could have really verbally hit back but I remembered my breathing and my dignity.

I do agree that colleagues should do it too but then there's the old saying, you can't change how others are, just how you react - or something like that wink

arsenaltilidie Sat 06-Jun-15 12:02:07

Bully's tend to avoid people who stand up to them.
She obviously got to her position because she is good at what she does. If the job gets done then I wodnt worry about her.
It's nice to try and stand up for others but we are not in school, frankly they should stand up for themselves.

Coincidenceschmoincidence Sat 06-Jun-15 20:22:12

Yikes arsenal, I could imagine our head of department saying just that hmm

Coincidenceschmoincidence Sat 06-Jun-15 20:37:57

I'd add that I've managed to progress in my career and have consistently good appraisals without ever stepping on others.

Any workplace culture which enables bullying is toxic. It should not be for the victim, who may be much more junior or new to the company to have to deal with this shit on their own while others turn a blind eye and look after their own agendas. hmm

Also remember it's different from school in that scarily enough, these people often come with the power to influence your livelihood.

LivingTheDr3am Sat 06-Jun-15 23:14:22

I've worked in a very similar situation. Initially I felt confident that I could survive but once I returned from maternity leave the circle closed. One woman who sounds just like the person you've describe had managed to elevate herself within the organisation made the rest of the members of her senior team lives a misery. I would suggest standing up to bullies and various other strategies are pretty much futile it some really nasty bully with the support of the boss hopes for you. Colleagues may be sympathetic but generally are glad it's not them! With the experience I've had I would say LEAVE the writing is on the wall.

LivingTheDr3am Sat 06-Jun-15 23:15:17

Sorry not hopes for you but goes for you!

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