I hate bullies. I didn't like them when I was a kid, and I certainly don't like them now. Nowadays, though, I see them more often in office environments, where, instead of physically beating people up, they mentally beat people down. Most of the time they don't even realize they're doing it, which makes it seem worse, because they give the appearance that they could care less about other employees or the work they do. And, unfortunately, most of the time that's absolutely correct.

There are a few different ways to address a bully.

Cave troll as corporate bully
Creative Commons License Kevin Dooley via Compfight

One is the direct way, giving them just what they give you; this doesn't bode well for long term employment if you report to a bully.

Two is to just let it go and deal with it; this doesn't bode well for your long term peace of mind.

Three is to work out what you want to say, point by point if necessary, and go back to the person and tell them how they made you feel, and see if they appear to care how they might have come across to you.

Obviously the third approach is the best way, but it's difficult for two reasons; nothing's ever simple, is it.

First, you have to make sure you don't go in either scared or mad; you must maintain as complete a composure as you possibly can, and you must stick to your script, without going off on tangents.

Second, you have to be prepared for not getting exactly the type of response you might be naively expecting; you will rarely get contrition. At best you'll probably get a response along the lines of "I'm sorry if that's how I made you feel, but,..."; that never seems to suffice, but it's the best response. You'll rarely get a true apology; if you do, you're lucky.

I know of two people who've recently had to deal with bullies of this sort. One tried to get the bully she was under to change; that didn't work, and now she's looking for a new position. The other went to the bully she reports to and explained how she felt; he didn't apologize, but he didn't yell either. She reported a kind of indifference, but at least she knows she was heard; the long term success of this style is still to be told. But she's more at peace because she had her say.

And that's really the most important thing. You can't resolve anything if you never say, or do anything. Bullies, especially adult ones, need to know when they've crossed the line. And, in any case, at least you'll know whether you've found someone you might be able to work with, or need to get away from. And isn't knowing always better?