Workplace Bullying: What To Look For, What You Can Do


In an environment where disrespect is tolerated, workers may become numb or thick-skinned about the way they are treated by management, or how some employees treat their fellow workers.

This is why adults who easily recognize bullying behavior among children may not be as perceptive about bullying at their place of employment – it is often business as usual.

Bullying Workplace Behaviors

Bullying is obvious when a person at work is overtly threatened, abused or assaulted. However, bullying among adults is frequently more moderate, even subtle. It may include any of the following disrespectful behaviors:

  • Incivility
  • Harassment
  • Gossiping
  • Teasing
  • Overruling decisions without explanation
  • Withholding business information on purpose
  • Demeaning a person or a team
  • Sabotaging team or individual efforts
  • Verbal intimidation

In the U.S, there are no laws specifically designed to provide legal protection against workplace bullying.

Target of Bullying? Consider Your Options

A cautious response to bullying involves absolving yourself from blame but being wary about sharing the experience and exposing the bully. It is understandable why many advise this route, and why people choose to take it, but it might not be the best choice for you.

The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) recommends a more proactive response. They point out that nothing is more important than your health and being the brunt of workplace bullying causes a tremendous amount of stress. If you are bullied and do not actively stand up for yourself, the stress will increase and can fester. This will have a detrimental effect on your present and longterm well-being.

The WBI outlines a three-step response to bullying:

  1. Bullying behavior may not be illegal, but it is a real problem that you did not invite. So, the first step is to externalize the problem and legitimize yourself by giving the hurtful behavior a name such as harassment, bullying, emotional abuse, career sabotage or psychological violence.
  2. The next step is meeting with a mental health professional who has no ties to your workplace and becoming clear about whether to remain and fight, or to leave for the sake of your health. Step two also involves monitoring your physical health, researching legal options, collecting data about the economic impact of bullies in the workplace, and beginning a job search.
  3. Step three is making an unemotional bottom line presentation to your employer that the bully is too expensive to keep on the payroll. If the employer sides with the bully and you must leave the job, go out with a roar. Let everyone know the circumstances; exit with your head held high.

Prevent Workplace Bullying

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. One way to prevent bullying is to point out the offenders and try to have them removed.

If targets of bullying do nothing, they lose their job in 77.7 percent of cases, either involuntarily or by eventually choosing to leave for health reasons. It is no riskier to expose a bully and attempt to oust them, but you will need a planned escape route. Many bullies are not purged; they are promoted.

Sources: Crisis Prevention, Workplace Bullying Institute


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