A few weeks ago I got a good news from the CEO of the company where I did an internship. He told me that he wanted to hire me. A few days later I was called by him to talk about the contract details in the meeting room of the office. During the conversation - after talking about the remuneration and similar - I was asked by him to call his secretary. When I opened the door I saw - hidden behind a wall - a coworker, who was my tutor during the internship. He was spying on the conversation.

In the office he is the type of person who wants to know everything about everyone. He's always trying to manipulate situations to his favor. He doesn't know I saw him that day out of the meeting room.

Now, I'm working full-time for the company, I'm not in the same department with him anymore but we are in the same room.

The fact is that the guy is becoming very annoying, he tries to provoke me all the time saying that he knows everything about me and that even if we are not in the same department, he can always control me. Sometimes he just looks at me, and then starts laughing. I really don't care about him, but the situation is becoming unbearable. He is in a good position in the company, and everyone depends on him in some way.

The question is addressed to more experienced people: What is the best way to approach this kind of person to try to solve the problem at best?

  • 50
    A well connected, unscrupulous person sounds like a bad enemy to have.
    – Myles
    Apr 20, 2017 at 13:40
  • 42
    @Myles unless of course, he's not as well-connected as he seems. This is often the case. Apr 20, 2017 at 15:11
  • 23
    "...saying that he knows everything about me" -- A great retort for that is from Murphy's Laws of War: "If the enemy is in range, so are you."
    – Blrfl
    Apr 20, 2017 at 18:38
  • 2
    "He's always trying to manipulate situations in his favor." I don't know anyone who doesn't try to make things go their way.
    – user15729
    Apr 20, 2017 at 20:29
  • 2
    @fredsbend Everyone does it sometime, but of someone tries to do it all the time, it certainly is a bother
    – DS R
    Apr 21, 2017 at 6:16

5 Answers 5


Richard has a good solution in his answer depending on your personality.

My own method is a bit more forthright, when he started hassling me in front of people I'd ask him straight out if he has a problem with me. This leaves the ball in his court and he has to back it up which bullies don't like doing. 'You got a problem mate? I don't remember doing anything to you but you're getting annoying, so whats the matter, maybe I can fix it?'

If he takes up the challenge he loses because he has to explain his problem with me, and I can move forwards from that either fixing whatever I'm doing wrong or laughing at his idiocy. If he doesn't he still loses because people saw him hassling me, and now know he has no gonads.

Or he can bluster and swear and do the whole performance which just makes him look unprofessional. In which case you just shrug and fob him off 'Yeah... whatever mate.'

Pandering to a bully rarely if ever does you any good. Standing up to one gains you respect.


You are dealing with a workplace bully. Plain and simple. You can either fight fire with fire, ignore it, or go to HR.

I would STRONGLY recommend against ignoring him.

The next time he pulls anything, you can simply say "Your behavior is inappropriate", and walk away. If he pulls the childishness about knowing everything about you respond with "Oh, really? What do I have in my upper dresser drawer?" or something like that. If he laughs at you again, pat yourself on the back and say "I bring joy to everyone I meet". or, again something similar.

The point is to convey that either he has no effect on you at all, or that he is amusing you. Meanwhile, document all of his behavior so you can have a folder filled with documented incidents to present to HR or a lawyer.

Also, build strong relationships with other coworkers. If he does something in front of them, don't act offended but ask a coworker "what's going on with him". That way, you get them thinking.

If this approach works, he will find other prey, if not, you will have to take your evidence to HR or to a lawyer.


Per Steve-O's comment below. Make your immediate supervisor aware of your difficulties before going to HR. Use your judgment as to when to bring in your immediate supervisor. You are likely not the first person that has been a target of this bully and your supervisor may be building a file of his own, but certainly go to him before HR. Do not ever turn over copies of your evidence to anyone until and unless you are ready to act, and always keep copies in case your evidence get's "lost".


I take it that this is your first job out of school. It's a rough time and since you don't have any experience to draw on, it can be a little unnerving when someone takes advantage of your newness.

If I were you, my first step would be to get some intel on this guy. Do you have any friends in the company yet? Do you feel good about your manager? I imagine this must be a fairly small company since the CEO is personally handling the hiring of someone at your level. This guy must have some sort of reputation by now. You should start asking people you trust "what's with [insert freak's name here]?" And tell them (in confidence) what he's been saying to you. If you don't have any friends at work, make some.

In the meantime, you might want to ask him what he wants from you. From what I can tell in your post, there doesn't seem to be any point to these conversations other than you intimidate you. I would try to come across as casually bored by these conversations but start asking questions like "is there a point to this?"

I had a coworker at my first 'real' job that would take it upon himself to put me down, one-up me, or minimize my achievements regularly. Years on, I think he was just threatened by me. I worked with him for maybe a year but it felt like a long time. My guess is that this is what you are dealing with. The best thing to do is be the adult and act confidently.


Some of the answers here are very direct in their approach. Take the fight to him. Even taking the fight higher, to HR for example, I think is impossible for a wide proportion of personality types. Typically for those familiar with the Myers & Briggs personality types, anyone who scores as an introvert. The types in themselves aren't there to categorize people as those who can or can't do, rather, how that person handles situations and how we can expect to have them handle situations will be different. The sort of strategy below is for someone like me, typically quiet, reserved and averse to conflict.

There are a couple of gaps in the question here, namely, how does the perceived bullying affect your work? Are others bullied by the same individual? Does his department share any sentiment? And finally what have you done, in anything? Try to understand the motivation: bullying is never about the victim, rather, about the bully and their disposition. Maybe your salary is much higher and he's been there longer and he resents you. It's completely unprofessional, but it happens painfully often.

Cues aren't always that obvious, though. You can try to relocate yourself: let your boss know that you're distracted at your current desk and a different desk, preferably away from your bully, would be beneficial. I wouldnt name drop your colleague because I can't at this point substantiate whether he's actually deliberately bullying you. Not to play down your situation but bullying victimization and bullying perpetration are two different things that may not be occurring concomitantly.

And of course step 3 is to take things into your own hands. It's important not to attack the other person. You want to ideally keep your ego in check and be specific: it's exactly this that you say to me that bothers me deeply.

These are things you can try to do for yourself before the situation has to escalate. You should not, however, be afraid to reach out to people who can make real changes. You just don't want to drop a bomb on a country that was never invading in the first place.

Disclaimer: This is based on current research into adult bullying and I have never myself been bullied in the workplace.

  • 6
    Can we please let the "introverts are scared of people" stereotype die? That's not what introversion is about.
    – Erik
    Apr 21, 2017 at 6:41
  • @Erik I neither stated nor implied that notion. I think the confusion is that introversion as it's defined here is not how people tend to use it. In fact, I go on to stress that introversion as a matter of Myers-Briggs personality type does not categorize individuals as either (1) scared of people or (2) not scared of people. Rather, if at conflict with a person, the introvert may try other steps than directly impact the bully from the start.
    – CKM
    Apr 21, 2017 at 18:23

I think most of the people have given an incorrect solution to your problem.

Just ignore him until you have become adjusted and harmonised with your other colleagues and environment. Before adjustment, if you would complain to HR against him, you will become irritative for the others and it is possible that they will consider you as a troublemaker. Also your opponent will try to manipulate the situation.

Be careful, just tackle him with a cool temperament and show him that you aren't feeling his effects on you. When you have gained the position and adjustment within the company, then you can take a serious action to sort out or eliminate him if he continues.

Act like a virus as it does during the invasion and taking control of a cell.

  • I'm not sure suggesting someone to eliminate another person is quite what you meant, at least I hope not!
    – Draken
    Apr 21, 2017 at 11:05
  • 3
    @Draken ...well, it would solve the problem...
    – xDaizu
    Apr 21, 2017 at 11:32

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