How to Develop a Witty Comeback for an Office Bully

Knowing when to use a witty comeback to confront workplace bullying

Follow a witty comeback with a smile to diffuse the situation. iStockphoto

Bullies and office mean girls think it’s funny to poke fun or engage in name-calling at other people’s expense.  But these office “jokes” and mean-spirited comments are emotionally draining after time.

If you are on the receiving end of rude remarks from an office bully, it can be difficult to know how to handle it. For the most part, displaying little to no reaction is the best response. After all, people say mean things hoping to get a reaction from you.

So ignoring them can be the best response of all.

Walking away from the bully is also a good response. Still, some bullies are persistent and keep making jokes at your expense. As a result, it seems like something else is needed.

When to Use a Witty Comeback

If you have tried ignoring this type of workplace bullying and the bully is relentless with his insults and putdowns, it may be time to brainstorm a few witty comebacks as a way of defending yourself from the bullying. While witty comebacks generally will not stop a bully completely, they can increase your confidence. No longer are you just taking the insults, but instead you are being proactive and standing up to bullying.

Also, remember a witty comeback is not a returned insult. You don’t want to stoop to the level of the bully. You simply want to respond to what they are saying in a manner that boosts your confidence. It also makes you a more challenging target because you are standing up to the bully.

In general, bullies are looking for easy or weak targets. Sometimes it is good to show them that you are not an easy mark.

How to Develop a Witty Comeback

Usually, a witty comeback will need to fit the words being said to you. What’s more, the best comebacks feel natural for you to say and are not something someone else would say.

So choose your words carefully.

Remember, if you can’t deliver a witty comeback with a confident tone of voice, it will fall flat and do more harm than good. Practice the comebacks at home before trying them out at work.

In general, a witty comeback might sound something like this: “I’m sorry. I don’t remember asking for your opinion.” Just make sure that your comeback is appropriate for the type of insults being said to you and watch your tone of voice.

Examples of Witty Comebacks

Remember, it is always better to show no reaction at all when a bully makes a rude remark or a joke at your expense. But, if that no longer works, you can try using a witty comeback to stand up for yourself, to diffuse an uncomfortable situation or to turn the bullying into something humorous.

Here are some examples of things you could say when someone is making fun of the way you look, dress or act.

  • “I know, right?”
  •  “I have been working really hard on that. Thank you for noticing.”
  • “Bummer. I was really hoping to get your stamp of approval today.”
  • “I’m sorry. I don’t remember asking for your opinion.”

Here are some examples of things you could say when someone calls you a name.

  • “Hey. Only my friends are allowed to call me that.”
  • “I know! I am one of a kind.”
  • “Thanks. I try hard to impress you.”
  • “I know, right?”

Finally, consider the timing of your comeback. If you wait too long to say something, it will lose its value and may sound strange. Also, be sure to choose your words and tone carefully. You don’t want to appear rude. You simply want to say something that communicates that you are not an easy mark and make the bully think twice about making you the butt of his jokes. And don’t forget to smile when you deliver your comeback. It will ease some of the tension in the situation. Then, simply walk away.

If a bullying situation escalates, don’t delay in reporting the offenses to your manager.

Although there are no laws against workplace bullying, any type of physical bullying or threats of violence are against the law and should be taken seriously. Physical bullying and threats of physical bullying should be reported to the police.