How To Handle A Bully in a Meeting
Can you think of someone who talks through meetings, claims credit, interrupts, and speaks over others? We’ve got some tips to manage those situations to help you feel more assertive – and less stampeded.
Did you imagine when you were a child that bullies and bullying would be left behind on the playground?
You’re not alone if you did.
Many of us have realized that there are bullies at work, too.
Bully behaviors can range from interrupting meetings to taking credit for other people’s work.
If you’ve experienced something like this in your workplace, I’m here to help.
Experiences like these are frustrating and disheartening – and I want to help you learn the best ways to navigate these moments with calm, professional confidence!
In this article, I’ll cover:
- The difference between workplace violence and a workplace “bully”
- The behaviors of bullies in meetings and how to handle them
- How to develop a healthy team so that everyone feels heard
- How to develop the confidence you need to be assertive at work
Workplace bullying vs. workplace violence
While workplace bullying and workplace violence exist on the same spectrum, I want to be clear that there is a line where dealing with workplace harassment goes beyond interpersonal skills.
- Dominating meetings
- Taking credit for work
- Using a condescending tone
- Hoarding office supplies or knowledge
- Excluding team members from meeting
- Verbal abuse
- Physical assaults
- Sexual harassment
Workplace violence is a very real, and serious, problem. 15% of reported fatal workplace injuries in the United States in 2019 were cases of intentional injury by another person.
Workplace violence can impact your mental, emotional, and physical health.
Additionally, feeling like you’re working in a toxic workplace environment seriously impacts your well-being.
If you’ve ever experienced workplace violence, harassment, threats, or psychological harm, please immediately report such behaviors and seek help.
- Know the laws on Workplace Violence and Harassment in your area – arm yourself with knowledge.
- Speak to your supervisor (or if your supervisor is the offender, speak to their superior or your union for support).
- Find out if your workplace offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that provides counseling and support.
If you’re experiencing bullying behavior outside of meetings that cannot be resolved with interpersonal communication, then this behavior should be reported.
ANY behavior in the workplace that is having an impact on your mental, emotional, or physical health is not a behavior you should have to tolerate.
In this article, I’ll be talking about the frustrating impact of a dominant “bully” personality on the team environment in workplace meetings.
I have some tips for you for those moments when your colleagues put too much “me” into meetings.
The behaviors of bullies in meetings and how to handle them
You may be wondering what behaviors I’m referring to when I talk about bullies in meetings.
You may also wonder if a particular colleague of yours fits this definition!
Meeting bullies are those who:
- Dominate meetings with constant talk without allowing time and space for others
- Take credit for other people’s work
- Interrupt colleagues during meetings to insert their ideas or opinions
- Talk down to colleagues during meetings
The secret to addressing, and stopping, each of these behaviors is communication.
If you’re lucky enough to work somewhere that practices radical candor, you already know that honesty, respect, and communication are key to any professional relationship – including handling workplace bullies.
I will break this down by different bullying traits and give you some tips on handling each scenario.
Dominators of meetings may not be trying to squash other speakers out of malicious intent, but they do squash other speakers.
Your supervisor – or whoever is responsible for chairing the meeting – is in the best position to subdue a dominator. If this isn’t happening, try speaking with your supervisor outside of the meeting and suggest that you’d like to hear what other colleagues have to say.
If you still find that there’s one colleague who dominates conversation in meetings, let them get their train of thought out of their system and respond with only minimal engagement. Show them with body language that you’re interested in the point of view of other colleagues.
If you’re comfortable with your team, you can politely state: “I’d like to hear from other people on the team who haven’t had a chance to share their thoughts yet.”
It’s frustrating when someone takes credit for good work you’ve done yourself or as part of a team.
Try to make eye contact with the credit-taker and calmly say that you (and whoever else was part of the team) also contributed to the project – then share some of your thoughts on the outcome or ways you think you could improve the results next time.
If this happens regularly, or you’re uncomfortable addressing the matter in the meeting, focus on communicating with the credit-taker after the meeting.
It can be difficult to regularly interrupt, especially at work. It can make you feel uncomfortable, flustered, or mad.
The trick is to keep your composure. Listen to the interruption, breathe, and at the end of whatever they’re saying, calmly say, “I’m going to finish my point. If you have feedback, I’d love to hear it after I finish.”
If interruptions come from someone with more seniority than you, seek them out afterward and ask for their feedback privately.
When someone talks down to you at work, this can raise your hackles or make you feel demoralized.
It’s fair to assume that this person has some ax to grind – but you are not their whetstone – and you can professionally confront them for this behavior.
Try saying: “That sounded a little condescending to me. Could you explain what you meant by that?” This gives the colleague the chance to change their behavior and shows them that you’re not going to let the behavior go unchallenged.
Often, many people continue bad social behaviors well into adulthood because no one has challenged them.
If the behavior continues, speak to your supervisor about the problem.
How to develop a healthy team so that everyone feels heard
Sometimes workplace bullies are just colleagues who feel like they aren’t being heard or recognized in the workplace.
Perhaps, they feel like their ideas aren’t getting the traction they hoped for, and they’re trying to dominate the team to prove themselves somehow – without noticing that this is harmful to the team.
If you’re the manager of a team of employees, or if you’re a worker who feels like your team could function better with more cohesion, then you may want to consider team building exercises that will help you to align your team and get things back on track.
How to develop the confidence you need to be assertive at work
It takes courage and confidence to stand up and speak up to workplace bullies.
Some people are born assertive – the rest of us must work on it.
That’s what I’m here for.
I have helped super-smart, incredibly-skilled professionals from every field develop the skills they need to feel confident and to help their ideas be heard in the workplace.
I can help you, too. Reach out today, and let’s get started.