Q: “I teach at an international school which employs people from several different countries. Despite our cultural differences, everyone works well together except for one abrasive teacher. ‘Owen’ likes to create friction and is especially rude to our Asian staff members.
“Although Owen is just a teacher, he tries to boss us around because he is in charge of an important project. He refuses to let us take concerns about this project to our Director and says that all information must go through him, which is a lie. If anyone tries to bypass him, Owen gets angry and starts yelling.
“Some good teachers have left because of Owen, yet no action is ever taken action against him. Our Director dislikes conflict, so Owen takes advantage of his peaceful nature. Whenever Owen is on vacation, we are like one big happy family. But as soon as he returns, the tension starts again. What can we do?” Fed Up
A: Owen has no officialposition, so there are only two ways for him to acquire power. The Director can delegate authority to him or the staff can simply allow him to dominate. To address this issue, you must first clarify how much formal authority he actually has.
Since Owen can’t legitimately block your communication with management, gather some well-respected colleagues and meet with your Director as a group. Explain that Owen’s behavior is alienating the staff and that people don't understand hisrole.
After clarifying Owen’s level of authority, ask the Director to speak with him about his inappropriate behavior. This might solve the problem. But if Owen continues his domineering ways, then the staff needs to grow a collective spine.
When you comply with Owen’s demands and cower before his wrath, you are only reinforcing his aggressive work style. So if he becomes insulting, tell him to stop. If he exceeds his authority, remind him of his limits. If he starts to yell, ignore him and go about your business. The best way to neutralize a bully is to stop being a wimp.
Do you need to do a better job of standing up for yourself? Here are some tips: How Assertive Are You?