Bullies who gossiped and told stories to make themselves feel better about themselves. And bullies who abused with words, criticising or saying hurtful things to belittle others in public. Unfortunately, as adults we can still be exposed to bullying in the workplace where perhaps the behaviours are more complex than those of the school playground.

The best way to combat a workplace bully is build your awareness and know how to spot them. Then, determine what behaviours are triggers for you, personally. From there, you can channel your emotional intelligence toolkit for strategies to work fruitfully with them.

There are four kinds of workplace bullies. Let's explore each one.

1.     The Passive Aggressor. This workplace bully is the person who seems even keel but when the tension gets too high, he or she will suffer an emotional outburst. Symptoms of the passive aggressor include, but are not limited to, observing a smug demeanor, a cold attitude, a pacifying attitude, or a general sense there is a lack of trust. Passive aggressors feel they have been wronged by someone or by a certain event.

How to Spot Them:  Instead of addressing the issue when it occurred, passive aggressors harbor those feelings. They will use small ways to release their tension, usually in the form of snide remarks.

How to Stop Them: When dealing with a passive-aggressive individual, remember that whatever they are feeling is true. All feelings are okay. All behaviours are not. Passive-aggressive behaviour needs to be addressed for it to stop. Passive-aggression occurs when we believe we are in competition with someone. Help eliminate that feeling of competition with your workplace bully by ensuring you are on the same side working towards a common goal. Play on their strengths, even highlighting them when appropriate.

2.     The Attention Seeker. When you were in elementary school, there was probably a student in the classroom who constantly got in trouble for his or her antics. They may have been talking or joking or doing things that were disruptive. These attention seeking behaviors can remain within a person well into adulthood.

How to Spot Them: This person is one who will speak over others during meetings and try to "outdo" their fellow colleagues any way possible. The ultimate goal is personal recognition from someone above. This bully wants to feel valued. Unfortunately, the quest for validation may involve stomping on his or her colleagues in the process.

How to Stop Them: Channel your empathy. What could drive a person to take such drastic measures, as an adult, to gain attention (and even approval). Is there any way to tap into the damaging behaviors and turn them around for good? Perhaps this person can lead a marketing campaign or lend a creative hand. Maybe they can lead a presentation to the team or suggest ways to improve teambuilding activities. Validate them in a productive manner and you will notice the attention seeking bullying behaviors will start to dissipate.

3.     The Favorite. On the opposite side of the spectrum is the "favorite." This is the workplace bully who is perceived as the boss's favorite person. It will seem as if they can do no wrong, even when they make egregious mistakes.

How to Spot Them: The Favorite will play this to their advantage, cutting corners, seeking favors, and feeling they are more important than his or her colleagues. In the event they end up in a disagreement, they will run to the boss and complain, vent, or even play the victim themselves!

How to Stop Them: This bully is tricky. If you go to your boss and raise your concerns, there is a chance your boss will think you feel threatened by The Favourite. If you confront the bully head on, there is a very good chance they will go to your boss and say you are attacking them. This is a very darned if you do, darned if you don't situation. The best way to stop The Favourite is to refrain from venting to other employees about it. Make a list of things you can do to preserve your mental and emotional wellbeing. Observe their behaviour and determine if it is truly favouritism or if it is perceived favouritism.

4.     The Antagonist. Remember the school bully who used strength and size to knock everyone else down? That is the antagonist. The antagonist acts from a place of insecurity. Instead of physically beating up their colleagues, the Antagonist will use whatever he or she can find to express dominance over the workplace.

How to Spot Them: They might be quick to anger, thus making others fearful of interacting with them. The Antagonist may spread rumors or lies about colleagues through gossip. This individual is battling with self-worth.

How to Stop Them: Respond, do not react. The Antagonist feeds off a reaction. They're yearning for you to cry, scream, argue, and retaliate. The lack of this will confuse them, rendering their efforts moot. Instead, take a moment to form a response instead of a reaction and encourage your fellow colleagues to do the same.

Awareness is essential - you cannot stop a workplace bully until you understand what one looks like. Then, remember that the bully's behaviours have nothing to do with you. Their behaviours are a by-product of past trauma, current self-worth, and a myriad of issues going on in their own life. When you take the personalisation out of the bullying, it feels less hurtful.

Workplace bullies will always exist, but high emotional intelligence and awareness can help soften their blows. Model good behaviour and your workplace bully might just follow in line. Always remember that workplace bullies are flawed humans, just like all of us.

Article by Salman Raza, author of Life's Non-Conformities: An Auditor's Tale of Practical Application of Social, Emotional & Behavioral Strategies