In elementary school, the class bully left you with empty pockets. In the corporate world, the bully can cause even more damage -- ranging from severe emotional distress and sluggish work to stalled career progress. What's worse: Despite hoards of office initiatives and formal legislation, bullying is still creeping its way into the workplace.
Nancy Shenker, founder and principal of the ONswitch, a marketing company specializing in start-ups, said she was once the victim of a bullying boss who loved to publicly berate her.
"I finally scheduled a private meeting with him and told him quite simply that his behavior was affecting my work performance, that I felt demoralized and embarrassed," she said. "I went so far as to tell him that if I really was so incompetent, we should call human resources into the meeting to work out a severance package or start writing me up," she said.
Her boss admitted he had no intention of firing her, and their relationship improved. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute's Web site, bullying is more prevalent in today's workplaces than sexual harassment and racial discrimination. Approximately one-in-six US workers have directly experienced destructive bullying in the last year.
Women are most often on the receiving end of the workplace abuse, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute. Although 58 percent of bullies are women, they make up 80 percent of targets. "Targethood hinges on two characteristics: a desire to cooperate and a nonconfrontive interpersonal style," the organization's Web site states.
Standing up to the bully may not be as difficult as it seems, said Kerry Patterson, co-author of the bestselling books "Crucial Conversations" and "Crucial Confrontations." "If you know what to say and how to say it, you can speak up and keep the risk of retaliation to a minimum," he said.
Patterson offered these tips to keep the office bully at bay: