7 Signs You’re the Office Bully

Author’s note: This article is adapted from my book, Network Beyond Bias.

7 Questions for Self-Reflection

Think there’s no way you’re an office bully? Ask yourself the following questions, and answer them honestly:

  1. In the last six months, have I told someone they’re being “too sensitive” in response to something I said? Have I told anyone I work with that they “can’t take a joke”?
  2. Can I remember the last time I made a joke that targeted a particular gender or gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability?
  3. Have I recently made a generalization, realized I was in “mixed company,” and said, “Oh, I didn’t mean you“?
  4. Has anyone asked me to stop making certain types of comments or called me a bully?
  5. Do I feel defensive when someone points out my behavior?
  6. Do I feel like I am better / smarter / more competent than others and therefore have a right to denigrate them?
  7. Do I regularly exclude certain people from discussions so I won’t have to watch what I say?

How to Stop Being an Office Bully

  • Do some soul searching. If you’re lashing out at others, perhaps it’s because you feel threatened or insecure. Work on being vulnerable, on not having all the answers, and on lifting others up for their experience and expertise.
  • Make public and private apologies. If you have belittled, ignored, or intimidated others, apologize to them privately. And then apologize publicly to the people who witnessed your behavior. You not only made them feel uncomfortable, you also made them complicit if they were afraid to stand up to you.
  • Ask someone you trust to watch your behavior and call you out on it if it continues. Practice receiving constructive feedback gracefully. Ask for time to think about the feedback, even if you disagree with it.

Admitting that you’ve made mistakes in the past is difficult, but your reputation is worth it.

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3 comments

  1. Millie Hue - Reply

    I like that you’ve listed down questions that one could ask themselves to recognize if they are being a bully or not. I guess my colleague is already a bully especially that he has been telling a lot of us to be “too sensitive”, just like what you’ve said. We are just hoping that one day he’ll realize the things that he has been doing to prevent consequences in the future.

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