Bullies in the classroom and on the playground grow up to be bullies at work, in politics, and in their communities. And dealing with these unfortunate people, no matter what the environment, requires the same approach: you must stand up to them, strengthen your voice and resolve, and not back down. It is as painful to do as an adult as it is as a child, and we must do it. Once you stand up to them, their insecurity will cause them to lie about you and do and say anything possible to disparage you. Promise yourself to be such an amazing person that no one would believe them. Stand your ground and be your best you—that’s the only way forward. If you’re dealing with this now, let me tell you a story.
When I started working at a financial services company in 2008, my Director and VP were pretty awful people. 14 months after my start date, I found another job at the same company in a completely different division with great people. The work was interesting and the role was a coveted one. My Director and VP were furious that I had gotten another job without their help and after they had done everything possible to prevent me from moving on to a new role. They were bullies and because I worked hard, spoke my mind, and did well despite their poor leadership, they continued to speak badly about me even after I left my role on their team. I moved on and never looked back.
Within a handful of months, they were both managed out of the company (a nice of way of saying they were fired). Shortly after that, my old VP reached out to me on LinkedIn. He had started a consulting practice and wanted to know if I could introduce him to my new VP in the hopes of getting a contract with my new team. He wanted to work for me after treating me so badly! It was shocking.
I ignored the message and never responded. To a bully, silence is deafening. Dismissing them without a second thought is intolerable. And in my eyes, that is exactly how he deserved to feel after his bullying—intolerable. It was a satisfying moment to hit delete. I fired him from my career and my life. I never heard from him again.
I recently faced a very similar situation and I’ve decided to deal with it exactly the same way. I’ve moved on and focused my attention on my new role with a great boss, talented team, and fascinating work. I’m not looking back nor listening to the noise and toxicity that I left behind. My future is ahead of me, not behind me.