Dear Aunty B,
I work for a medium-sized company in a fairly autonomous IT role (I’m the only one of my team in this office, the others are all interstate). Recently, we had one staff member (contractor) start unbolting hardware and swapping it because the “approved procedure for repairs takes too long”.
When I pulled him up on it (which is part of my job), and told him I would place the offending item back on his desk and he could do things the right way, he came up to me and said, “You come near my desk and I’ll break your bloody fingers.”
I reported it to HR, they investigated and found the “offence” proven (he actually admitted it), but refuse to tell me what action they are or will take against him (and it looks like nothing has changed). As I work in the same area of the office as he does, he is continually doing little things to annoy me (like drumming on his desk, which I have politely asked him to stop).
HR has said I can work from home if I need to (and my boss interstate agrees). However, it’s not always practical.
How do I handle this? I don’t want to provoke a confrontation with him, as I would have a hard time holding my temper in check (does not play well with stupid people). I’ve been here five years and am too old to start looking for another gig, and I actually enjoy the work I do.
Let’s make one thing clear – you should not have to put up with threats to break your fingers.
Obviously HR is being a bit useless, here so if this happens again you have to give him the Aunty B. What is the Aunty B, you ask? It is the treatment for bullies that I have perfected over many years working in the publishing industry, which I can assure you is jam packed with bullies. I’ve shared the Aunty B technique here before and I can’t tell you how many times I have used this tactic and it has worked EVERY time.
Here is the Aunty B guide to bullies:
When Bully threatens, you give him a filthy look, lower your voice and very softly but with a steely look (practice this in the mirror) tell him that you will resume the discussion when he calms down.
You walk off.
Wait a few hours. Then you pounce. Watch for the signs. Maybe he is eating lunch, flicking through the newspaper, or doing up his zip up on the way back from the toilet.
Wait until he is seated. Then quickly approach his desk, slap your hands down flat on his desk and at the same time lean towards him in a menacing manner. Then you yell in his face: “Don’t you ever talk to me like that again.”
He will lean back in shock. You will then spit out in a fury some sentences and make sure you include the words bully and unprofessional several times. It doesn’t matter what you say because the Bully will be in shock but what will register in his reptilian brain are the words “bully”, “unprofessional” and “sue” – the last of which you never said but he will know where it might go.
After a 30 second tirade, stop. Lean back and take a deep breath and then appear calm. Sit down and then tell him that you hope that is the end of it and you expect to go on working together in a “professional” way. Then raise the matter that prompted the outburst, take control and tell him what you think.
Now J, to do this you must have a resolution in your heart that goes like this: “No one ever bullies me, ever.” This is your new mantra. So repeat it after me. “No one ever bullies me, ever.”
And guess what? If you believe this and do the Aunty B every time it happens, no one will ever bully you again.