When you're dealing with heroes and villains in a movie, the plot is simple. The hero has to find the villain and take him down (and in most cases, indulges in a little romance on the side). There are several ways the hero can confront his nemesis, but the most common method is total annihilation – machine guns, hand grenades and the obligatory car chase through New York City. Of course, the hero emerges unscathed and still able to rattle off a couple of humorous one-liners.

Over the course of your career you've probably had more than one villainous colleague or manager – someone who delights in bullying, belittling or sabotaging a coworker. But how many times have you seen someone stand up to the villain and play the part of the hero? Unlike the movies, in real life (and especially at work) we tend to give the villain the upper hand. We assume we've done something wrong if a colleague or manager is picking on us. Or we go home and stew it over, but we don't actually confront the person.

So take a tip from the movies – if you're being bullied or victimized at work, it's time to take action. Remember the action movie plot…find the villain and take him down. Your coworkers will thank you for it, and while your aim certainly isn't a company-wide blood bath, a peaceful, pleasant working environment is a pretty worthwhile thing to fight for!

The Bully
The most obvious workplace villain is the bully. Just like the bullies you knew in elementary school, these people use intimidation and threats in an attempt to demean you and build themselves up in the process.

To stop a bully in his tracks, remain calm, but don't be a wimp. Instead of hiding out in the photocopy room after a run-in with the company bully, stand your ground. If the bully is ranting and raving, look him straight in the eye and firmly but calmly say, "Please don't speak to me like that. We're both professionals and I'd like to resolve this issue in a professional manner." If he continues, say, "I'm sorry, I refuse to discuss this issue any further. Please stop by my desk after you've calmed down." Then walk away.

Nothing is more infuriating to a bully than someone who refuses to listen. By walking away you've asserted your position, and you've let the bully know you refuse to be intimidated by him. And don't be afraid to confront a bully in public. Most bullies spread their nastiness around, so others are bound to support you if you call a bully on the spot.

Back Stabbers
Back stabbers are just as vicious as bullies, but they shy away from confrontation. If you find out someone in your office is talking about you behind your back, the first thing to do is verify if it's true. If it is, you have two options – you can ignore the gossip or confront the person responsible for starting the rumors in the first place. As a rule of thumb, if the gossip could affect your career, you really can't afford to ignore it. Try approaching the back stabber and saying something like, "Jane, I understand you've been telling people that I jeopardized the Allan account by missing the advertising deadline. I did no such thing, and I'd appreciate it if you stopped spreading unfounded gossip. In the future, please approach me directly if you have a problem with my work."

The key here is to be calm, factual and firm. State the exact rumor (if you're vague, it's easier for the back stabber to deny it) and explain in no uncertain terms that you won't tolerate gossip in the future.

Idea Killers
These are the people who are totally apathetic about their work. But instead of just affecting their own careers, their apathy spills over and kills the spirit and enthusiasm of everyone around them. Their favorite phrases are "that would never work", "we tried that a couple of years ago and it was a flop." or the old favorite "you really don't understand how things work around here."

If an idea killer is a colleague, he or she is merely a drag. If your boss is an idea killer however, it can be deadly. An idea killer can block your efforts so much that it looks like you're as apathetic and incompetent as they are. Upper management may view you as a non-performer – they won't see that you pitch new ideas all the time.

The next time you pitch an idea, anticipate the idea killer's objections and come prepared to counter them. If you want to instigate a rebate program and you know the company tried one ten years ago, go in with facts and figures to highlight the different market conditions that would make the campaign work this time around.

If he still won't come around, tell (don't ask) him that you're going to pitch the idea to a more senior manager.

Explain that you want to hear their reaction "just in case their thinking has changed since you last spoke with them." The idea killer's biggest fears are confrontation and change. So don't be afraid to stand your ground if you're trying to get around an apathetic boss.

Whoever the villain in your life is, don't be afraid to confront them. But remember, the good guys are only successful if they're truly good. So don't confront a colleague or manager without a good reason, otherwise you'll end up playing in the villain!

Read meeting dilemmas solved by the Meeting Guru.


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