How to Stop the Office Bully

Bullies get away with bullying because people are afraid to speak up.

Suzanne Lucas

I'm livid. I overhead our immediate supervisor talking to two other coworkers about a third in the group and she compared her to a pregnant cat. This girl is overweight, but has lost a considerable amount recently and is extremely sensitive about her weight to the point that she has asked the other coworkers to quit asking how much she weighs. I personally think the supervisor is jealous, but I want to know: Is there anything I can do or say (the girl in question also heard it!) to help this poor girl out? Our supervisor is also human resources, so that is not a possibility!

Yes, there is something you can do. Speak up. Saying rude things about other people is bullying behavior. Bullies get away with it because people are afraid to speak up. So, you need to speak up.

Here's how you do it:

Supervisor: Ha! Gina looks like a pregnant cat!

You: That's not very nice. Gina looks great.

It's important to take action immediately. Now, I realize that because the offender is your direct supervisor, this can be a pretty scary thing to do. If your supervisor is an irrational person, then you probably won't want to take this path. Instead, pull her aside quietly and say, "Gina is very sensitive about her weight and she overheard you earlier today. I just thought you might want to know."

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But, here's my question: Why, in the first place, did Gina have to request that people stop asking her how much she weighed? Since when is that an acceptable topic of discussion? Sure, when someone is losing weight it's common for people to comment positively: "Hey, Gina, you're looking fabulous!"

Of course, if Gina is sensitive, she may not like this either. But in that case, she needs to deal with it because people are being nice. (Or at least trying to be nice.)

If you start speaking up when something is said that's inappropriate, other people will see that discussing this is not acceptable. Hopefully, then, things will change.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of human resources experience, most of which have been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.


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