The bully who pretends I’m not there


The powers that be have promoted me twice because I can handle Bill, an in-your-face bully. I now run a department, and our department’s success depends on how we interface with those who work for Bill, who are as boorish as he is.

I’ve succeeded because I don’t let Bill rattle me, regardless of his antics, nor do I let Bill or his employees insult those who work for me. I’m the buffer.

Bill’s now trying a new tack. He pretends I don’t exist. When I present my department’s perspective at staff meetings, he acts as if I haven’t said a word. When I visit him in his office because we have projects to discuss, he gives no indication I’m talking to him. If I stop him in the hallway and speak, he walks away, to the amusement of those who work for him.

I don’t run after Bill, but I do email him afterwards, so he receives the information he and his department need. Should I be doing more?


Your office bully thinks he “wins” when you give him the information he needs despite his treatment of you. He doesn’t. You do, because his new “you don’t exist” strategy doesn’t rattle you any more than his former behavior — even when he employs it at staff meetings in front of everyone.

Meanwhile, everyone wastes time and energy dancing around an employee invested in nonsense. How many employees have left your organization because of Bill? Were you promoted into their positions when they’d had enough and left your organization? When you’re not around to buffer Bill’s treatment or he and his group turn on those in other departments, what happens to morale and productivity?

What more should you do? Convince upper management they need to address the real problem: how Bill and those who work for him treat others. My guess — they know some of the situation but don’t see the real cost, because Bill doesn’t do to them what he does to others, and those who get in Bill’s way either go along with him or leave. Also, for whatever reason, they don’t consider Bill ignoring you at staff meetings important. My guess: They see it but consider it “just Bill.”

Your job? Assess and document the situation. Describe exactly what’s happening, in irrefutable detail, so your senior management can’t assume you’re simply upset by how Bill personally treats you. In your assessment, anticipate the objections your senior management may have to taking action based on what you present, and include a strong counter argument and solution. For example, you might say, “Despite how he interacts with others, Bill and his department produce results. Here’s my strategy for maintaining those results without the current collateral damage.” Your recourse if this doesn’t work? Continue doing exactly what you’re doing. You’ve forced Bill to change tactics and sooner or later he’ll realize his new act doesn’t work on you.
Nice going.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at

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