I just graduated from college and started in this new company 6 months ago. I have a problem with a colleague at work. He is not well liked by other colleagues in the office. He's loud, bossy and extremely arrogant.

I am normally quiet and try to keep to myself at work. I am also extremely shy but lately my colleagues started teasing/gossiping about me with this guy and it really bothered me to the point I just want to avoid him to stop all the stares and gossips.

I still need to work with him from time to time, so last week, I tried to approach him by sending him a message but he replied by telling me he doesn't like chatting. He went on further and escalate this matter by humiliating me in front of all my colleagues not to message him anymore.

I have been warned by a trusted colleague not to approach him but I just didn't think he would react this way. He may not realise it but I felt extremely humiliated and all the gossips are not helping. I used to love my job but now going to work is a pain and I keep wishing the earth would open up and swallow me up then.

I guess my question now is how do I deal with this situation? I'm too new to transfer to another department. Even if I could, the whole process will take 6 months to a year. Leaving the company is not a favorable option as I might not be able to secure a job like this.

Edit: Perhaps I left out that he's not exactly in a managerial position but has significant influence in the company as he is the apple in my boss's eye. Therefore, all my colleagues stay out of his way as much as they could.

  • 22
    Sounds to me that you are dealing with a classic case of a bully. Life is too short to let someone else add unnecessary stress. My first suggestion is that you need to bolster your self-confidence and work on thickening your skin. If problems persist, talk to your manager. If your manager does nothing, then you are going to have to simply stand up for yourself and largely ignore this other person. This may help: bullyfreeatwork.com/blog/?page_id=38 Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 14:34
  • 2
    You don't just have a problem with this colleague but with all the gossips too. They are also bullying you. Try to make it clear to one of them that you have 0 interest outside work with this guy.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 18:05
  • Related: workplace.stackexchange.com/q/89357/73791
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 18:13
  • 1
    ...I keep wishing the earth would open up and swallow me up... - Dangerously sloppy thinking. You should keep wishing the earth would open up and swallow your loud, bossy and extremely arrogant colleague. Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 14:43

4 Answers 4


As David Fleeman says, it would appear to me that you are being bullied. Bullying in the workplace is a real phenomenon, and can make peoples lives a misery. It is also possible that some insensistive people can bully others without realizing it, or think that everyone should be like them and enjoy the 'cut and thrust' of mutual insults. In many countries bullying is illegal, and many companies have a formal policy against it. Here are some suggestions on things you might do:

  1. Read up on bullying in the workplace. Find some links and articles relative to your country. Here is an example of a link on workplace bullying from the Government of Canada.
  2. Document any instances where you have been made to feel humiliated or miserable. Write down what happened, what was said, and how it made you feel. If you can remember recent ones write them down, if not, document any further incidents as they happen. Try to collect several examples.
  3. Talk to your colleagues about this, in private. See if any feel the same way you do about this person. Also document any cases where the bully targets others apart from yourself. If any of your colleagues feel the same way you do, and if they agree with your view of the way the bully behaves, try to enlist their help with the rest of this process, and get them to back you up to management. If however they mostly think his behaviour is acceptable, it may be that he isn't a real bully and you just have a clash of personalities.
  4. Talk to your boss about this. Ask for advice about how to handle it. Make sure she understands that this is affecting your work. If some of your colleagues have agreed with your view of the bully, tell her that too.
  5. Talk to the bully. Send a message saying that you do not want to be talked to in this way. Explain how what he is doing makes you feel. Record any response he makes. Hopefully at this point he will realize that what he is doing is hurting you, and will agree to stop. If so, all well and good and nothing more needs be said. If he responds in person or by phone, and if the response was also bullying or intimidatory, write down what was said. This is a difficult thing to do, but it offers the best chance of sorting this out without official input (which you don't want if you don't have to) and will probably be necessary to pursuing this with management. However if you don't feel comfortable doing this, ask your boss to have this conversation with the bully.
  6. If he isn't actually an intentional bully, his response to this should be some kind of recognition of the problem, and an attempt to change. He's unlikely to change overnight, but you should see improvements. Hopefully the problem is now on its way to being fixed.
  7. If none of this has fixed the problem, make a formal complaint. Make sure you state clearly that you think you are being bullied, and point to the bullying policy if there is one. If you have been subject to racial or gender slurs or similar, make that clear too. Sometimes that is enough to get someone disciplined all on its own. This should probably go to your boss first, but if she hasn't been supportive, go to HR. Be armed with the descriptions you wrote of the bullying interactions. Give names of any colleagues who are prepared to back up your view.
  8. Read up on what your company's bullying policy is, if any. Large companies frequently have one. See if this would fit into that category.

If this works out, you may be doing an entire department of people a favour by stopping this guy's behaviour. However, be aware that this may not work, in which case I would suggesting keeping your head down, interacting with this person only when necessary and only in a formal way, ignoring anything they say to you that isn't directly related to your work, and look for a transfer to another department - or another job - as soon as possible.

By the way, the steps above are not strictly to be done in order. You should probably talk tot he bully, and certainly talk to your boss, before talking to HR, and document things before going to HR, but the others are pretty flexible.

  • 5
    Great answer. But keep in mind that there are two sides of each coin. Not only you have a problem to solve, but also the offending colleague. He probably doesn't realize the amount of damage he is doing to the whole team, and maybe wouldn't continue his behaviour if he realized that it's bulying and what this means. Maybe his friends do realize it, and could drop him a few hints in such a way that he doesn't lose his face. But I think you yourself are in a bad position to de-escalate this.
    – maxy
    Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 20:51
  • That's a good point. What I would expect is that if that's the case, the boss should help sort it out. Or he should stop doing it when the OP talks to him about it. Unless he doesn't change his ways then there should be nothing official or disciplinary. Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 21:41
  • 1
    I think in his current view only OP (Cryssie) has a problem. Admitting anything else, especially in public, is very difficult. I think OP has suffered a lot self-confidence damage by now, which is one reason why the direct confrontation didn't help. In fact, I fear it has just made things worse - the hurdle for the bully to change his behaviour (and thus admit he was wrong) just got higher.
    – maxy
    Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 22:06
  • If the bully really is a bully, and refuses to change his ways when approached (the approaching should be polite and non-confrontational, but not "if you don't mind I'd like you to behave differently") then the bully is going to get a real chance to change his ways, with plenty of incentive and consequences if he doesn't. Which is as it should be. Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 22:10
  • 2
    @Cryssie Regarding your HR. Personal conflict is what you have here already. If your HR department is unwilling to help resolve situations like this then they are not doing their job, especially if multiple people approach them about the same situation. Going through them might be 'complicated', but a little complication is sometimes to the cost of getting a resolution to the problem. Commented Jan 1, 2014 at 20:43

You need to learn to stand up for yourself and to stop letting things like unpleasant co-workers bother you. Most jobs have someone unpleasant. Just about every job has gossips. Right now you are acting and thinking like a victim, you need to learn to be more assertive. There are plenty of books on this and I suggest you read some of them (and a couple of books on office politics would help tremendously too). I was very shy when I started working too. But shyness is one thing you can't afford in the workplace and not standing up for yourself is another. You will always find the workplace difficult until you learn to stand up for yourself.

Another thing to keep in mind is this is an unpleasant person. He is not out to get you specifically. So don't take things so personally. Instead think, "It must be sad for him to be so unhappy that he has to act that way." He may also have personal problem you know nothing about that are causing him stress and it is coming out in obnoxious behavior. Ask yourself if you would let the behavior go if you knew that his son was dying of cancer for instance. Sometimes it helps to assume that something is wrong in his life and just let it go.

Sometimes you can turn around someone who is not your best friend at work by complimenting them on something they did do right and ignoring the bad. I had a colleague once who resented that they had even created my job and who thought it was unneeded. It took me a awhile to turn him around but since he felt somewhat threatened by the very existence of my job, I made sure to publically compliment him every chance I got. (He was good at his job and I did need to work closely with him at times.) This serves several purposes, first most people like to be complimented and have a better impression of you if you seem to have a good impression of them. Next it disarms him by making him look like a fool for attacking you when you clearly respect him. Finally, because you took the high road rather than descending to his level, then you look better to the other people in the office.

If gossips are linking you to this man you don't like, then speak up and say something that will divert them to a new topic or let them know you are most definitely not interested. But do it conversationally and perhaps with a laugh about how silly the whole idea even is. I have found that treating something mean as an obvious joke and simply laughing at the suggestion is often more effective than protesting it is not true.

When someone disrespects you publicly, then you need to speak up right at that moment and tell them that the behavior is not appreciated. For instance, in the situation you describe where he asked you to not message him. I would have told him I'm sorry I didn't know you don't like that type of communication and I won't do it again (and keep everything to email from then on). If he said that in an aggressive way, I might have added something to the effect of "However, it was an honest mistake on my part since I did not know, so your tone is unwarranted and unappreciated" and remind him that he needs to treat me professionally. However, if he persisted in making comments about how stupid you were to use messaging, then I would smack him down verbally when he did it by pointing out that he needed to come into the 21st century. If he still persists after you have asked him to stop behaving unprofessionally to you, then you can escalate to HR or your boss with documentation of what specifically was said and when. But don't escalate unless what he did was truly horrendous (and preferably when you have witnesses who will back you up, not always possible I know, but it strengthens your case) and not just ordinary obnoxious behavior.

Don't quit and look for another job, learn to cope. Then you can look for another job knowing that you will be able to handle whatever jerks they have.


In a 'normal' employment situation interdepartmental transfers would occur after a few months. This situation is not normal - you are dealing with someone wrecking your morale. In such circumstances the best approach is to get with HR and your boss, tell them you're having too much trouble with this character to remain in the area, and need to transfer out as quickly as possible. Larger companies would, most likely, make an effort to accommodate, smaller ones may not have that capacity. You may have to chalk this one up to experience and move on.

  • While I generally agree with this answer, I would suggest that if the other person is behaving like an a**hole, then people shouldn't have to move just to get away from him. Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 17:59
  • 2
    This is a newhire, and while I agree she should get a thicker skin, it's probably better initially to put distance between herself and the offender. If the employer can't accommodate, she's motivated to quit. How this balances out depends on the situation. Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 18:01
  • In many 'normal' employement situations, interdeparmental transfers are not allowed in the first (6 months, year), including very large companies. Hiring and training is expensive, and moving around quickly is costly. They might allow it in extreme circumstances, for a great employee they don't want to lose, if they have another viable opening. Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 18:18

Here, and in similar questions I see the same answers:

  1. Talk to the person, explain how you feel, ask them to stop.
  2. Talk to your actual manager, explain, ask them to help.
  3. File a complaint with HR.
  4. Passive aggressive rhetoric.

The problem with the first 3, is: YOU aren't solving YOUR problems. You are asking someone else to solve them for you, whether it be the offender, your manager, or HR. My experience with bullies (I was bullied when I was younger, as I'm sure everyone has), is that bullies see this as a weakness, and start laying on the pain.

#4 is better in this sense, but the problem with #4 is: You are engaging with them, challenging their ego, provoking them. You may or may not come out on top, but you will certainly have a conflict, however long, short, light or brutal, but it will happen.

My go-tos, which have worked extremely well for me for a long time now are:

  1. Ignore. The more you focus on someone pretending to be your boss, the more your work suffers. Ignoring the bully is not the same as ignoring the issue. By ignoring the person, the bully gets bored of picking on you, without getting some sort of reaction from you, and moves on to greener pastures. If they're taking credit for your work, be assured - it won't last. Sooner or later, someone else asks them to do something they have been taking credit for, and they will faceplant or come begging for help... see #6
  2. Denial. A bully tells you to do something? A simple "no" will do. A bully tells you to stop doing something you're supposed to be doing, because it makes them look bad? A simple "no" will do.

Bottom line, #5 and #6 boil down to:

  1. Do YOUR job. Don't do someone else's job.

Following these guidelines, I have even ignored useless tasks assigned to me by my direct manager, in favor of tasks I assigned myself, and gotten away with it, because the result of my work was significantly more beneficial for the company I was working for, which was, by definition, beneficial for my manager.

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