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Got Bullies? Here's How to Deal With Them

Bullies are not one size fits all. What kind of bully do you have in your office?
Sally Field & Joanne Woodward in Sybil (1976).

There have been some great articles written about office bullies and even a book about it. And every company has one, you probably have one, and you may or may not even know about it. And bullies don't come in one shape, sex or size; they're all over the board. At my company VerticalResponse we've had bullies range from tiny women to burly dudes who've waved their bully wands like an iron fist, and trust me, it's no fun for anyone.

And bullies don't always bully down the organization, sometimes they have so much power that they can bully you too. Perhaps you think they hold some kind of "key" to your business and if they were gone your company wouldn't survive. That may be partially true depending on your business, but more often than not you'd be surprised how other people step in and step up to fill shoes you thought were irreplaceable.

What Type of Bully Do You Have?

The Actor

This person isn't always a bully, perhaps they're only a bully behind the boss's back, and when you're in the room they're sweet as pie. How do you combat this bully if they're fake to your face? You need to have relationships with your team at every level so no one is afraid to tell you the cold hard truth. Then you need to confront your bully and tell them you're very aware of their misbehavior. If it doesn't get corrected they need to go, as it's not worth losing great employees.

The Martyr

This bully makes it a point to tell their team to hurry up and do their jobs or else the bully's job is on the line. These are the same people who will use your name to get what they want instead of having a relationship with colleagues and working together for a common goal. If you see this behavior nip it in the bud, it's making you look like you're the tyrant (not them) and more often than not it's probably not true.

The Wincer

This bully walks the halls with a mean-face, doesn't smile and says more without words than if they opened their mouths. You need to call this bully out in front of people, cheerfully ask them how their weekend was, and ask them what the issue is that's making them seem stressed. The more you call them out, maybe the more they'll turn that frown upside down!


When Sybil is happy and not stressed there's not a bully in sight! Say something they don't want to hear or deal with? The bully comes out and comes out big time. Stress is part of any job and dealing with it and the people you work with is just a part of it. At VerticalResponse we had a Sybil, we loved Sybil but only when Sybil was happy. We wanted to ask only the bully part of Sybil to leave the company but unfortunately we had to ask the entire person. It was the best choice for all of us and both Sybils!

So make sure your company is as bully-free as possible, you'll have a happier place to work.

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Last updated: May 3, 2013


Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse (a Deluxe company), a leading provider of self-service email and social media marketing tools for small businesses. The company was ranked No. 4,882 on the 2013 Inc. 5000. @janinepopick

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