According to an American Psychological Association poll, three-quarters of those surveyed list work issues as the source of the most stress in their life. My practice certainly reflects this. More specifically, clients report difficult situations with a colleague as magnifying their stress.

These vicious work relationships, if left unchecked, can spiral out of control and lead to tremendous tension, wreaking havoc on a person that goes beyond his or her work life. By taking a few steps, you can squelch such a relationship you might have with a colleague.

Often, the most difficult people to work with are narcissists, who are just teeming with ego, which leads them to act like bullies. This type of employee thinks the world revolves around him or her and, as a result, lacks the ability to view things from anyone else's point of view. There's also a need to always be right. This employee has a reckless disregard for others and uses intimidation to get what he or she wants.

Here's how to deal with the workplace bully:

1. Evaluate the situation

Is the person being mean and nasty toward everyone or targeting you? If the person is generally unpleasant and simply not a nice person to be around, that's one thing. Don't take it personally. As a group, you and your colleagues should bring it to the attention of human resources and let them handle it. But if the actions are geared toward you alone, then the situation should be handled differently. In addition to informing human resources, take a step back and try to find out what's really going on.

2. Keep your emotions in check

Bullies can detect if emotions are getting the best of you and will take advantage of that. By remaining calm and rational, you won't feed the bully's ego.

3. Don't stoop to his or her level

One of the most common pitfalls when dealing with difficult people is to engage in their antics. Doing so only encourages and perpetuates the bad behavior. Stay above it all.

4. Document any incidents that occur

Keep a record of all acts of bullying so you have a case, should human resources look at disciplinary action against that employee. Keep track of the occurrences on your personal computer or in private notes, rather than on your work computer. The latter does not ensure privacy while the former does. 

5. Set your limits and boundaries

Practice with a friend or family member how you might respond to the bully. This preparation will provide you with the confidence you'll need next time something happens. Keep it simple and be clear. For example, "Please don't speak to me in that tone. It is disrespectful and unprofessional."

6. Be consistent with your message

Your consistent response to the bully will ensure that his or her behavior is not reinforced. The person won't get what he or she wants and will eventually cease the strategy and move on.

7. Don't blame yourself

This isn't about you as much as it's about the bully and his or her unhealthy ways. Underlying the bully's behavior is insecurity. The person might feel inadequate and thus projects that onto others. Or the person may want to appear dominant out of fear of losing his or her job.

8. Build positive relationships

The better connected you are to healthy and supportive colleagues, the less chance the bully will attack you--and the less impact it will have on you if he or she attempts to.

9. Be strong and be fearless

Don't be an easy target. If you shy away and cave to the bullying, it sends the message that the behavior is OK, since there's no consequence. Instead, stand strong. Eventually, the bully will be disarmed.