What to Do when a Co-Worker Turns Nasty

A friend of mine laments that work would be great if only there were no other people there! No matter where we work, we will work with others. Often, those relationships are cordial if not friendly, but there can be challenges. You will not love all of your co-workers, and some will be downright nasty.

Bullying doesn’t just happen in schools. More frequent incidents of co-workers who bully others are being reported. When co-workers turn nasty it can make for an uncomfortable, if not dangerous, working environment; but there are ways to handle the situation so that it doesn’t get out of hand.

Set clear boundaries. If you don’t set limits and let the co-worker know that their behavior is unacceptable, you can bet it will continue. Let the offender know that you will not accept their behavior by saying things such as, “It is not okay for you to talk to me like that,” or “I don’t appreciate being treated this way. I will not tolerate it.” This lets the bully know that you will not tolerate such behavior. If it continues, report the bully to your supervisor and company security.

Don’t fight back. The saying “Fight fire with fire” in this case is dangerous. Often the bully is simply trying to engage you, so if you fight back it will escalate the situation. If need be, remove yourself from the room and avoid contact with the bully as much as possible. Letting the bully know you will not play their game will often take the fun out of it for them, and they will leave you alone.

The law requires workplaces to be free from hostility. If you have a problem don’t just sit back and take it. Make your boundaries clear and let your manager know what is happening. Your manager is responsible for maintaining the peace and calm in the office, but he or she can’t if they do not know there is a problem.

You deserve to work in a safe environment. If you find yourself in anything less, be proactive and work on changing it. If being proactive doesn’t help, start looking for another position within the organization, or a job with a different company. Unfortunately, if the company tolerates bullying, there is little chance that you will be able to make significant changes. Whatever you do, keep in mind that you don’t have to take it. When it comes to bullying, create a no tolerance standard for yourself.

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