• We're a fun, friendly, and diverse group of planners, placemakers, students, and other folks who found their people here. Create your FREE Cyburbia ID, and join us today! Use your email address, or register through your Reddit, Facebook, Google, Twitter, or Microsoft account.

Bullies on the job

luckless pedestrian

Super Moderator
Moderator
Messages
11,132
Points
34
I continually find myself defending my existence (my work, really) to what I call the B-squared (bitter bully) - I feel like I am a magnet for the type and I feel it from them right at the introduction handshake -

I keep my head down and do my work but whatever I do, they are on my case and if I do make a mistake, no matter how small or large, they are on it without mercy

It's exhausting and I feel like I constantly question my existence on earth from it which I know is silly but I do it anyway - living with depression doesn't help

It's been this way since I was a kid so obviously I give off a scent they gravitate towards

Even if I am right in the situation, it doesn't matter, they say it's wrong - I am working with some great other member communities who love what I do and are great to work with so though I am introspective about what I may be doing wrong, I seem to be able to do right for other folks so it can't necessarily be all me - but it's a livelong trend so I do know I am doing something wrong to attract these types

How do you handle bullies when they are:

  1. co workers
  2. Board/committee members
  3. clients
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
13,399
Points
35
Sadly I handled the bully coworkers at my last job wrong. Hence, I'm in Kansas. At least I think it's part of the reason. They liked to run to the director for every mistake you made or every time you wouldn't help them. One was a secretary so I just explained that it's your job, not mine or I would show her how to do it instead of doing it for her. The other was the development services boss (I'll give Rygor her name and new west valley town if you want to mess with her). She didn't like when I pointed out the mistake was in her department not routing something in time, not the planner missing the deadline.
 

gtpeach

Cyburbian
Messages
1,963
Points
15
This sucks. I don't think any of us can just super easily brush it off. It's exhausting regardless.

How do you handle bullies when they are:
co workers - I think direct confrontation works best, although it's super uncomfortable. "Do you realize you're coming across as being really abrasive right now? I would like to work with you to resolve this, but I can't do that when I'm feeling personally attacked."
Board/committee members - How does this play out? The best option would be to try to reframe things into a more constructive statement before responding in my mind, but that depends on the nature of the bullying
clients - Fire them. I mean, if it's up to you, it's an option.

One strategy that works for me, and it honestly isn't always intentional, is that I just interpret things super literally. So I'm constantly asking for clarification or what they mean or if they can give me an example. And sometimes having to actually spell out how big of a jerk they are will help them back off.

Again, those are all dependent on the individual circumstances where the bullying is happening, but those are some ideas to at least help you keep your sanity. I hate jerks. :(
 

nrschmid

Cyburbian
Messages
2,857
Points
20
The closest thing to bullies were actually two female coworkers in two separate incidents, both fresh out of college with zero experience but overly ambitious, who tried to bully their way over me to get ahead.

Let's just say bullying with the gender card backfired in two different ways.

The first was a junior planner fresh out of college with zero experience (who also bullied her way into a job interview). Barely a year into the job, she complained to the company that I was creating a hostile work environment because I was making too many redlines on her drawings (yes, she was a nutcase). I was put on a 90 day probation (although I probably could have been fired because she was also a minority). I worked with a coach during that time and luckily got off probation. I kept my job as a senior designer, which stood in her way from advancing up the career ladder. I was always professional / courteous towards her after that. For a coupe of years, she tried to charm me to give her choice design assignments, but I assigned them to other planners or did them myself. She knew she damaged her reputation by pulling that stunt. After a few years she gave up and left for another job. Two weeks after she left I was (finally) promoted to planning manager. Good riddance!

The second bully was a female junior engineer who questioned my competency as a credentialed planner, both internally and in front of clients. We started at the company at the same time, and only worked together on a single project where I reported to her boss, the project manager, also female. The PM and I got along great, but the junior engineer constantly questioned everything I did and bossed me around constantly. I also had to teach land planning basics to the junior engineer, which was hell. Things only got worse when the PM left the company, and the junior engineer largely took over managing responsibilities, but no formal promotion to project manager (largely due to her atrocious interpersonal skills. She had a reputation in the company for bullying anyone on her team who was older, more experienced, who was not afraid to call her out (myself included). The bullying and micromanaging didn't stop even after I was promoted to manager in my own right. She treated me as subordinate even though I was in a different department and reported to her in a project capacity only. Unlike her, I separated out my personal feelings from my professional relationship, but it was still very stressful. I discussed my concerns privately with my own boss and with HR separately but never filed any complaints. I fixed this mess by getting off the project, although it took impeccable timing without shirking my responsibilities as a manager. I haven't had to interface with that engineer since :)

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes, especially in this politically-correct climate. Thank goodness neither of them bullied me with sexual harassment (otherwise I'd whip out the gay card, gurl). I thoroughly enjoy working with females and my mom and sister are wonderful examples of hard working, courteous, professionals. But man, there are some bad apples out there!
 
Last edited:

rickster

Cyburbian
Messages
26
Points
2
I occasionally ate at lunch with some inspectors. They are blue collar people. They would take pot shots at other planners all the time. Making fun of them for being late and lazy. Putting down the codes they wrote. Saying how comically easy a planner's job was to theirs.

I thought about why are they so hard on other people but not me. I am a planner as well, what was the difference?

The difference was that I spent more time with them. They got to see my work ethic and got to know me personally. They saw me as a peer, and not some irresponsible millennial they didn't know. Since I spent time with them, they couldn't dehumanize me.


I personally haven't been bullied. I chalk that up to me being a big and tall white guy. So I don't have too much experience dealing with it other than the anecdote above.

I don't know how I would deal with a combative co-worker. That sounds like a nightmare.

I'll probably have to deal with crazy board/commissioners eventually. It's a bit more palatable since you're seeing them on a biweekly basis. I envision myself trying to get to know this crazy person better pre/post meeting so it's harder for them to lash out and dehumanize me.

For clients, I think it's less of a faux pas to tattle on them to your boss. At the places I worked at, the bosses would come to my aid when I asked for help with difficult clients. Get someone else on your side. Maybe that's applicable for you?
 

mercdude

Cyburbian
Messages
235
Points
7
^Hate to break it to you, but those inspectors probably also made fun of you - just not to your face.

And I've had a fair amount of office bullies around me and I've found that out-maneuvering them politically (and keeping your nose clean) is the best way to handle them. If you try to combat them directly, you'll only play into their hand - i.e. he 'harassed' me; he's openly 'hostile'; he talks 'down' to me; etc, etc. You can't win that way - play it smarter, not harder. Either you just ignore what they have to say, work around them, or start documenting their behavior and bring it up with HR/management formally. They (bullies) have to get their nose bopped from time-to-time in order to realize that their behavior is not okay or professional.
 

Pegguy11

Cyburbian
Messages
58
Points
4
In my experience working as an assistant to a local city Councillor, municipal workplaces can unfortunately have lots of drama. I find the best approach is head down, work hard, avoid the jerks best you can. When that fails and somebody is being an irate jerk to me, either a constituent, Councillor or other assistant I generally just let em rant, listen to em, and then try and kill them with kindness.
My go to approach with that is being direct, yet not aggressive. I'll say something like "Hey Irate @ss I understand that this is clearly important as your being very passionate about it. But your language, tone of voice, criticisms, approach etc doesn't let me hear you. all I'm hearing is your anger / passion. In order for me to listen / fix this I need you to calm down so I can hear you and we can work this out"
A lot of times this makes people stop and re-evaluate how they're treating me (especially angry old constituents), and they generally start to act like a decent human being.
Hope this helps! Stay strong
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
13,399
Points
35
The inspectors might have just been giving you a hard time. I've done it with all the inspectors I've worked with and I get along with them because I either give them a hard time right back or give them lines about how I'm a lazy planner and it's not my fault you're not smart enough to be one too. Typical boys club stuff. Then again, if the inspectors actually have some hard feelings toward coworkers, that's something management might want to work on because it creates silos and bad working conditions. Gotta have that team attitude going on.
 

queenOdawg

Member
Messages
22
Points
2
Thank you for sharing, luckless pedestrian. In my graduate school and 1st municipal planning job I had to deal with bullies who subverted my abilities to perform my job or projects effectively. I too have depression which compounded both situations. But whatever happens, remember, DO NOT let is stop you form pursuing your passion for city planning. I think you can handle this situation and take control of this in 2 steps. Step 1: seek counseling or a doctor that can get you a good anti-depressant. There are several antidepressants which also act as stimulants that can help you become an effective worker. I take Wellbutrin XL (buproprion) and it can be used for ADHD. I can really accomplish much more and feel better about my end work products I produce. Performance enhancing drugs ;) Step 2: the next time someone pushes you around, give a little, TACTFUL pushback to assert yourself. Remember, no one can take away the fact you are an expert in your field. Make it known to the bullies around you that you are the expert and demonstrate your knowledge. Don't get more quiet around these folks, because quiet people always get railroaded and shoved out the door. Planning isn't for reserved people, its for OPINIONATED people. Let your opinions be known in a tactful way and don't apologize if you know you are right.

Also, here are the exact bullies I dealt with as a municipal planner:

The two-faced passive-aggressive gossip: Only within a couple of days on the job, this woman was spreading lies about me to everyone else in city hall, making up lies that I steal, I am a sexual delinquent (because she didn't like the fact I was a gay man), and I was stupid. She completely mismanaged the GIS geodatabase making it impossible to find crucial shapefiles for updating. Luckily I worked my way around that and produced what I needed to. She spent all her time flirting with married men, (wireless applicants, developers, the fire dept manager) She quit just as my boss went on maternity leave to stick it to her for hiring me. She had the audacity to call ME rude right before leaving.

The liar Director of Community of Development: This one hated it when I went to her office with questions as a new planner. "What does code say" was her response to everything, a passive-aggressive way to tell me to 'f$&*-off''. I know what it says, i just need help interpreting this gobbly gook for the common folk. Later she admitted to the city attorney that the code doesn't make sense in a lot of places and is overdue for revisions. :not: Then she and the gossip decided they didn't like me for being gay. She sat down with me to approve a lot line adjustment, wrote the conditions of approval with me. A month later the psychopath stormed into my office and told me it should of been denied, EVEN WHEN SHE SAT DOWN WITH ME AND APPROVED IT! After that she conspired with a wireless applicant to hide the fact that their was a garage at the neighboring property where they wanted to collocate the ground equipment. This would have blocked access to the neighbors commercial garage. She was fully aware that this was a problem with the application, but didn't tell me (lied by omission) to make me look bad in front of everyone before she took off for her maternity leave. Luckily I caught the garage, but she still complained when I went on the record calling an application a "strip mall".

The angry Chairman of the Planning Commission Board: This guy wouldn't even say hello to me or greet me before the first plan commission hearing i sat at, which i felt was a bit tasteless. Then, one hearing he came in during a snow storm, I said Hello Chairman and he screamed at me that the city hall doors were locked and he was standing outside in the cold. Apparently he and several commission members called my office phone that they were locked out as I was setting up in chambers away from my desk phone unaware they were locked outside.

The imbecile law interns: Intern one - sat on a collocation BP application for over a month stating I erroneously approved a modification application making the subsequent application null and void against the conditions of approval of the CUP. This was untrue as she refused to read my interpretation of code on the previous application on the same tower that it was a minor modification. Intern 2: was in charge of the Design Review Hearings and screamed at me when I took initiative and emailed the agenda for the Design Review members in advance of the meeting. Thought, ok, I will step away and let her take charge of her own hearing. The second hearing starts, and she forgot to add an applicant to the agenda because she completely stopped talking to me! She screamed at me before the hearing that she was not made aware of this applicant's hearing, which is bs because the secretary passed that info on to her to add to the agenda, I deal with LU planning, not design review, so it wasn't my problem you dropped the ball!

Theatrical City Attorney: A CUP Application came through with a redacted lease agreement and signature of power of attorney authorizing the application. Took this to city attorney to get his opinion and it was agreed that the application was valid without the property owner signature as the property owner authorized the tower company to assign agents to submit applications on his behalf. Great. THen the applicant attended the hearing and said he did not authorize the application to be submitted (did you read the lease agreement you signed with the tower company, dude?) The commission asked the city attorney's legal opinion on this land lease agreement submitted in lieu of the property owner signature, and he pretended like I never discussed this with him and acted like he was reading it for the first time! Dude, I told you about this over a month in advance and we discussed it, but he wanted to make me look bad in front of the board.

Feels so good to vent about this!

Also, when all was over at the horrible jurisdiction I went to work for the private sector in wireless cell tower development and couldn't be happier. Ironically the guy that lied on his application trying to block a neighbor's garage was fired from his job, the assignments for new tower builds were pulled from his contracting company and now I am working on all his old assignments! Funny how what goes around comes around. So much happier to be surrounded by supportive staff. My boss is a former Director of Community development and encourages me to be a better planner everyday, Happy endings DO exist!
 
Top