You're barely hanging on. As you walk into work, your stomach ties itself in knots. You'd rather be hibernating. This is the feeling a bully bear creates in the workplace. Most of us have had a run in with one at some point. In a nationwide poll by the Employment Law Alliance, 45 percent of American workers claim they have at some point experienced abuse in the workplace.
With careful research and study of these beasts in their native environments, we've identified seven species of bully bears. Let's discuss a few of the most common types of bullies, including their care and feeding and how to bite back and regain control in the workplace.
The pander bear
This species thinks we're still in grade school, fighting to come out on top of the social ladder. Part of this is human nature: to form groups with similar people, even if it excludes others. It may surprise you that even adults will watch a popular TV show just to be able to discuss it at work the next day with the group. Adults also tease and gang up on other employees to fit into a group.
Bear down: It's a bad idea to give in and just join the clique. Bosses will consider cliques in the workplace as part of your identity, which can interfere with evaluations and ultimately promotions and raises. The other disadvantage is that in a clique, you are mostly interacting with similar people rather than branching out and getting to know a more diverse group of workers.
Don't engage in gossip with the clique. And treat its members with respect and professionalism, even if it's not returned. Ultimately, you're at work to make a living and cultivate a career, not to be the most popular bear in the square. Many cliques at work are filled with lower achievers who will only inhibit your growth. As Kathi Elster, co-author of "Mean Girls at Work" (McGraw-Hill, 2012) and "Working With You is Killing Me" (Business Plus, 2007), states, "While they wield social power, they can decide who is popular and who is not—and they are not usually respected professionally."
The grizzly bear
This species of bully often makes its habitat in human and veterinary hospitals. It takes confidence to work in medical professions. Sadly, sometimes that confidence can turn into egotistical behavior—and may even lead to disrespect toward team members and associates.
You may find no matter how meticulous you are anticipating this bully's needs, she will inevitably find a way that you fell short—and promptly point it out. She often acts disrespectful but can't bear confrontation when you call her on her unbearable behavior. Sometimes you must give up on trying to be a friend.
Bear down: Be professional and maintain a positive working relationship. Initiate a genuine conversation, and find ways to try to improve your relationship to benefit patients. You may even want ask a supervisor to be present if your attempts to correct the behavior don't bear fruit. Most important, don't allow the condescending behavior to continue, as it will draw a target on your back.