Career and Business

Beyond Reply All| Do You have a Work Bully?

Bullying is not just a term for back to school specials, they also show up in the workplace, with a handshake and a smile.

The topic of work bullies first came up when I was talking to a woman in my family (keeping the person vague, just in case). She got a huge promotion and was now playing in a different league within her company, she was happy but there were just a few folks that would not let her be great. They were pulling out those old school bully tactics like…

Copying every manager they can think of to blast you on what they think is an error, then after you explain why X could not happen, they call you privately to apologize so they don’t look crazy…

People literally screaming at you over the phone and saying things like … “Can’t you do anything right” 

I gave her tips on handling these people and gathered her for even allowing another person to yell at her over the phone. In case you’re wondering about the “Copy all” solution, I told her to never allow a person to make her look crazy but call you to clear the air. If they copy everyone to blast you, you should copy everyone to respond (professionally) and if they try and call… still copy all and say “Per our conversation… add detailed account and why the outcome”.

Protip: If the situations/requests are often the same, with the same reasons why things can or cannot be resolved, write it really good and detailed once, save it to word doc of responses and just copy-paste. Bam! You have just automated a read.

Why? Most people seldom work directly with top-level management and if the only way they know your name is when you’re being blasted by someone trying to make you look incompetent, guess what they think about you? Right. By copying all and explaining… it lets management know that you’ve resolved  the issue and that the other person is doing the most. That applies to everyone but specifically for the family member I am talking about because she is in a position where advancement is determined by yearly reviews. Her bully was literally gonna cost her coins.

I have definitely had my share of work bullies and so have my friends. I surveyed the black girl group chat and the stories were endless. One friend got a new boss that hated ideas that are not her own and proceeded to demean the giver of the said bright ideas. Another friend told me about her hot/cold boss who’s temperament changed with the weather, leaving the entire department on eggshells.

There were plenty of stories but one friend, a much better writer than me, really laid it out from another perspective that I thought was worth sharing in raw form…

“Bullying isn’t always aggressive. I think that is an important distinction to make. Especially when race and gender are important components in your interpersonal workplace interactions.

I work in Boston. A city not known for its racial diversity nor tolerance. And that bleeds into all industries. Especially mine: advertising.
As the only black woman (and one of only a handful of women of color) in my former employer’s creative department, I experienced bullying in the form of microaggressions daily. From being accused of being angry and in a bad mood, to being on the receiving end of poorly timed jokes, to being completely ostracized from social gatherings, I felt consistently on the receiving end of childlike bullying executed in warm tones and with bright smiles.
Bullying, to me, is any form of harm done intentionally and precisely as a result of the bulliers (bullyers?) own internalized self-loathing and low-vibrational existence. In other words, my black womaness (and all the greatness that comes as a result of such) was a constant reminder of my bullies’ own lack of self-worth. By merely being there and daring to excel, I was a mirror to their own mediocrity. And I paid for it via death by a thousand paper cuts.
The individual infractions are too many to name, and to be honest, I don’t really desire to relive them because I’ve made huge strides in not carrying around that resentment. However, I will never forget how I was constantly made to feel like I was inherently wrong simply because Northeastern white people have limited experience with and knowledge of Black people.
The silver lining is that I am now afraid of no one, at least when it comes to my career. I know now that I have a right, at all times, to stick up for myself, to demand my worth, and to reject the misplaced neuroses and insecurities of fragile white people.
I hope that anyone being bullied, regardless of age or setting, understands that they are being bullied because something within them shines so brightly that the bully is reminded of their own dimness.
Sis, said that! Bullying can come in so many different forms, some of it is personal to you, some of it is how people behave generally and sometimes its rooted in gender/race/age discrimination. I have found in 90% of the cases, setting boundaries up front, making sure people know “you got this” and not giving folks the rope to treat you crazy the first time tends to resolve it, quickly.
And in the 10% of cases where you cannot do anything, you’re in a truly toxic situation and should be looking to move on because your peace is too high a cost to pay.

Have y’all ever had a bully at work, a person that cannot stand to see you shining? Does your melanin magic tend to piss Becky off? Tell me about in the comments below.

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