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What to Do if You’re Being Bullied at Work

What to Do if You’re Being Bullied at Work

Shannon Hutton

We all know that there are bullies at school. I bet you can still remember who they are from when you were growing up. And now if you’re a parent, you likely have taught your children what to do if someone tries to bully them. Unfortunately though bullies don’t go away once we graduate and many of us have been bullied at our workplace. But that doesn’t mean we have to put up with it.

Before I share ways to respond when being bullied in the workplace, I want to describe what that type of bullying looks like.

Bullying in the Workplace

Though the setting for bullying has changed from the playground at recess and the school cafeteria, the dynamics are the same. Workplace bullies exert their power to intimidate, exclude and/or belittle their targets. This could take the form of coercing a person to take a certain position in a meeting, whispering and walking away when a person approaches, and criticizing a person’s job performance in the presence of colleagues. Regardless of the specific way bullies exert their power, the end result is that bullying in the workplace has serious repercussions.

Effects of Bullying

Although bullies in the workplace usually don’t resort to physical attacks, that doesn’t mean this bullying doesn’t impact the person physically. Bullying takes both a physical and emotional toll on the person being bullied. Specifically, the targets of bullies often have trouble sleeping, get stomach aches, headaches, have eating issues, and increase their alcohol consumption. In addition, the person being bullied often experiences a series of negative feelings including frustration, sadness, anger, despair and depression.

The effects of bullying also go beyond the person being bullied and impact the organization as a whole because bullying in the workplace results in tardiness, missed days of work, lower productivity and poor morale for those involved. Therefore, it is imperative that the people being bullied in the workplace and their supervisors do all they can to end the bullying.

Ways to Respond if You’re Being Bullied at Work

Just because you are being targeted by a workplace bully doesn’t mean you are helpless. There are steps you can take to stop this form of harassment. Here are a few suggestions:

• Keep a written account of every time you are bullied. Provide specifics like who, where, when and how. This documentation will demonstrate that these aren’t isolated incidents and that this harassment has been ongoing. The written details also make it easier to report the bullying in an objective, rational manner so there is no room for anyone to question the validity of the report.

• Report the bullying to your supervisor. If your supervisor is the bully, report the bullying to your supervisor’s boss. While I know this can be uncomfortable, bullying is a form of harassment that needs to be reported. And depending on the level of harassment, there could be grounds for legal charges to be made. Either way though, this unacceptable behavior needs to be brought to the attention of others who can successfully intervene.

• Avoid the bully when possible. While I understand you can’t skip staff meetings, you can choose to sit away from the bully in the meeting and eat your lunch at a different time and place. I am not recommending this because I believe you need to hide and run away from the bully, but because you will be bullied less if the opportunity doesn’t present itself.

• When it’s not possible to avoid the bully, do what you can to walk with a colleague to meetings, lunch and other workplace settings. This is because you are less likely to be bullied when you are with someone else.

• Walk confidently, with your head up, to convey self-confidence because bullies target those they think are weaker. If the bully believes you are on equal footing, she is less likely to target you.

• Pay attention to how you’re sleeping, eating, feeling and functioning at work. If you notice changes in any of these areas, I recommend contacting your Employee Assistance Program to discuss the situation or seeing an outside therapist.

You Have a Right to Feel Safe at Work

While it’s unfortunate that bullying is not something people grow out of, that doesn’t mean it’s something you have to put up with. You have a right to feel safe and comfortable at work. And whether the bully is in the lunchroom or the boardroom, he has to learn that his behavior is not acceptable.


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    gossoqueen

    3 months ago

    2 comments

    I'm in a similar situation that has been listed here. I work for the government and took a job a couple of years ago. There was a worldwide open competition and I was the successful candidate. I moved 2500 km to another province for this job. I gave up a great job and sold my house, because I thought this would be my dream job. Some of the employees in the park that I got job with, felt that they should have been awarded the job because they worked there. The position was asking for specific skills that these employees didn't have unfortunately. So in a nut shell, these people targeted me and took out their frustration on me directly. I have been threatened and intimidated on a daily basis. One person even went as far as too pretend that she was excepting me to try to get personal information on me and use it to try to spread gossip about me. My direct co-worker has sabotaged my work efforts and makes things difficult for me. Example: he will leave the lights on in the truck the day before he knows that I will be working by myself so I will have to charge it. He has tried to discredit me with colleagues in the field. When I'm not present he'll elude that I did something wrong and has sent emails defaming my character, that have made their way back to me. I have put complaints in all the way to the deputy minister and nothing has been done. The director of my department said that what he thinks I have been dealing with based on my complaints is actually bullying and not harassment, therefore nothing can be done because there are no policies put in place for bullying. I have been told by people within HR and the union that I am making things difficult for myself because I made complaints and typically people that have made complaints in the past are the ones that are targeted and their job performance is the one that is spotlighted. I found out that 3 people prior to me in the same position quit due to the same things being done to them. I don't know what to do at this point. I'm depressed, suffering from headaches and stomach aches daily and I don't want to go into work. I never missed work at my other positions unless I was actually sick with a flu, which was rarely. In the past month I have missed 8 days. I don't think it's fair that I'm being treated the way I am and nothing has been done, but I also know such is life and life is not fair. However, I have spent thousands of dollars to move here and if I walk away, will have to spend thousands again to leave (there are no other options for me in my field in this province), not to mention having to try to find another job in my field in another province. I work in a very narrow field and there aren't many jobs that I can apply for that I am qualified for. 2 questions. Do I have any legal recourse? What can do in the meantime to keep myself healthy, mentally and physically.

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    Camilabozner

    4 months ago

    2 comments

    I'm 30 years old and I'm a bartender I've recently had an incident with a co-worker who is stealing tips. I was upset and informed my boss/owner who did not care at all because the girl is 22 and gorgeous. Wee her lesbian lover who she is secretly dating but lives with is the one bullying me and she also works there. She said something extremely rude to me standing right next to the boss/ owner and other co- workers. Not one single person said anything to defend me and I'm pregnant as we'll so I feel like helpless and alone but I don't show it. Deep down I want to snap her neck and say other things. What else can I do to help get through this just a few more months when I will be taking my maternity leave and NO I'm nevering going back.

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    vickyg1

    7 months ago

    2 comments

    I work for a company who employes a large group of younger people. I am targeted often with old age comments. From calling me OLD to making remarks like we are waiting on you to die. One supervisor said he was going to use my teeth to hit another employe with. The younger crowd really enjoyed that but to be honest it's why I do't want to go to work anymore. I am thinking of hiring a lawyer.

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    TeamPlayer88

    10 months ago

    2 comments

    I work in a restaurant. I never thought I'd ever go through this at work but I have been accused of taking my job too serious and need to lighten up when it comes to deleting items from a customers check after they are already gone and paid their balance in full. These deleted items are taken out from checks being paid with cash. Deleting the item(s) from a cash check means they can pretty much pocket what the item(s) are worth. I noticed this happening on a slow day at work. A ticket came in for a dessert and other food and as I walked the dessert over to the customer that ordered it I also dropped off some food to the other customer. I came back to my work area only to find those two items deleted already. I went to check to see if I had made a mistake but one customer was packaging their dessert on a to go box and the other was still eating the food that I took that was also deleted. I was so confused about this that I went over to the head chef and told him about it, He then went to ask the server what was wrong with the food and the server told the chef that the customers didn't like the food. I was in shock when the chef told me that. after that time I started noticing this more and just seeing managers deleting things for servers because of whatever reason but the food was never brought back to the kitchen by severs to show the head chef the problem so that the problem could be avoided in the future. I then brought it over to my managers attention about this issue. I had gotten in trouble in the past for not paying attention to this detail and I didn't want to make the same mistake again so I saw the open door policy and I went inside office to discuss this matter with them.

    lets forward this a few months. I am now a server and working my shifts and everything is going OK ( so I thought) one shift I was scheduled to give servers their lunch breaks. Each break I give is $10.00 That night, management gave me a list of all the servers that needed breaks. Six servers out of 9 didn't take break from me because "they already took it" The end of the night came and as I was waiting for my girlfriend at that time to get off work I hear these servers asking management to fix their time because they "forgot" to punch out. The manager simply said "OK no problem! I thought to myself "NO PROBLEM?" these guys are the same ones that told me that they "took their lunch breaks" 6 servers = $60.00 i didn't get to make. As weeks passed and I kept just being a breaker week after week and having to deal with the same issue week after week I finally sat with manager and explained the situation and told him about rotating between servers because when I became one that's what I was told. Nobody has a set station and everybody rotates.

    forward this a few weeks more and I am now outside on a lonely station. No customers being seated no nothing and I was getting close to finishing my shift because that station is ALWAYS closed first. I finally get about 3 tables and a server comes and tells me "go take your break" I told him these are my only tables and I'd like to service them come back to me after you're done giving breaks based on who needs them because they had been here much earlier than I was. He leaves and comes back to tell me the same thing "go to break" in a rude way. This server that is telling me to take my break is one of the six that Always fixed their times by management while I was a breaker to save themselves $10.00 I told him I'm about to get closed in less than an hour I'll go talk to manager. I go ahead and start putting an order for my table and manager gets my attention and ask me if I took a break and I said no I haven't you're almost going to close me out. he then raised his voice and yelled GO TAKE A BREAK YOU DON'T TELL YOURSELF WHAT TO DO, I DO!.... this all happened as I was placing an order from a customer as some of my collages are there witnessing this event unfolding between my manager and I. I was so embarrassed and angry because of how my manager showed no respect for me by yelling me in front of my co workers and how unprofessional that was on his part. I ended up getting called into the office and getting in trouble for not wanting to take my break. I tried expelling to him that this wasn't fair that I'm getting in trouble for this while others are just getting their times fixed by management. All the manager told me is "stop bringing back the past, the past has nothing to do with this... I was sent home and got written up on my next working day. I was lost for words. I didn't know how or what to feel.

    Ive been working there for 3 and a half years not feeling comfortable, being talked about by servers and hearing their criticisms through others. Criticising my partner's worth ethics and pretty much everything you can imagine. Last night I walked in to work only to be ignored by servers that were actually somewhat friendly. I put some alcohol beverages to be made. 12 minutes 4 or 5 more alcohol beverages for 4 tables and still not one being made. The bartender is at the other end cleaning because the bar side was empty. The other servers come and simply ask the bartender for drinks and automatically are being made while i waited and waited and waited. I told him that I've been waiting before and it was like I was talking to a wall. I was 230 lbs when I started working there. I'm down to 170 now. sleepless nights, no appetite, frustrated about the fact that I cant even go to management for anything because how uncomfortable it is. I'm angry all the time and my drinking has came to an all time high. I'm always stressed out knowing I have to go to work to deal with the same treatment by my coworkers and management. I called corporate twice already and only get forwarded to a voicemail. I ran out of options and brain dead. my mind never stops running and cant ever get a good sleep. Any advice helps. really I appreciate your time to read this.... thank you

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    bwitch

    11 months ago

    2 comments

    My bully is a co-worker and she has been bullying me for years. I've reported her behavior to my immediate supervisor, my boss and to our human resource person, but no one has put a stop to her behavior. I don't know what else to do and I'm not quiting my job!! I've had enough of her mouth. I am afraid that she might be bi-polar and she might come in one day and actually kill me! She's bullying myself and another co-worker. What do you suggest I do?

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    jcwood

    12 months ago

    2 comments

    I was bullied at work for 6 months
    i called a lawyer and they said that there was nothing i could do about this
    until they fired me.

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    graciem8676

    12 months ago

    2 comments

    Well my question is what do you do when the bully is your supervisor? I constantly feel targeted by her and I mean where do you go and who do you go to when it's your own supervisor doing this?

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    shellbama

    over 1 year ago

    2 comments

    Have just found out alot this week regarding my husband's job. Apparently, he has been screamed and yelled at constantly all day. His boss/owner has degraded him and put him in a position that he didn't know which way to turn. My husband was a mechanic running the shop and doing the best job he could. Employees have recently left this garage due to the owner. The shop opens at 8:00 and one day at 8:15 he still had no mechanics. There were days he had only one and stayed to 10:00 at night to get things finished. Everything came to a head on Wednesday. The owner started slapping my husband around and wanted him to fight. He refused and left. I have only seen my husband cry at his fathers funeral. The last month or so he has called me upset saying he was having a bad day. His mother recently just had a heart attack but is okay and associated the stress to this. Little did I know he was keeping everything bottled up about his employer treating him like this. Now he has no job, I will not let him go back to that mental man. He is depressed and will probably not get paid for the overtime he worked. Do we have any legal action we can take or at least get his overtime money. We are very low on funds now.

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    PretenderGurl86

    almost 2 years ago

    2 comments

    I've worked in daycare for about 5 years now and just recently started at a new one. I've been there about a month or two and have been utterly tortured non stop by the director and assistant director. I can do nothing right. They're always looking over my shoulder to point out my faults but never acknowledge the positive things I do. They've turned all the other employees against me. Nobody will talk to me, and when I try to start conversations, I'm looked at as though I have a 3rd eye and/or am completely ignored.

    Ive tried talking to my fiancé about it and he says I'm dwelling on it too much and it turns into an arguement. And I can't quit because we are trying to get a house for our land.

    I'm stressed, tired, and hurt. They've got me believing there's something wrong with me. I am emotionally beat and don't know what on earth to do about. I feel like my hands are tied and they've got me trapped in a corner with no way out.

    I can't go over their heads without them knowing. Please somebody help me? What are my legal rights? I'm in the state of Texas. I don't know how much more of this I can take... ='(

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    RoseQ

    almost 2 years ago

    2 comments

    Hi ghayes, I was moved by the experience you shared about your daughter. I know that children who internalize the bullying often end up hurting themselves or worse. We live in very negative conditions these days, except we can create a bubble in our lives and fill it with positivity and work to keep that bubble intact. Your daughter needs to be coached on how to stand in her strength and confidence. What that looks like is this: 1. she needs to know her bond is TOTALLY secure with her parents and that they will take action to have the bullies brought up on charges as needed BUT 2. for your daughter to have the secure sense in herself, because this doesn't go away, you need to follow up with special training for her so she can learn the physical traits of an alpha female, confident female, secure female. She DOES NOT feel confident and she instead feels vulnerable and this is why the others are attacking her. Tony Robbins (google) is a master at helping adults have confidence breakthroughs and I think you will get a sense of what your daughter needs inside herself if you watch some of his empowerment videos and learn his story. Martial arts trainings, anything that gets your daughter to connect with her physical strengthen is excellent as well as something that teaches her about her power and authority. I hope she gets your support 1000% and learns to turn bullies into mush with her power and authority over their pettiness! I wish your daughter the best and DO NOT wait!!! Children going through that don't all make it and you are totally at cause for the support she receives now to end being a victim and never look back. Blessings and get on it mom!

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    staylor29a11

    almost 2 years ago

    2 comments

    i feel this way alot of times when I am not working. I have had physical issues for along time. I know this happens to other people because it happens to me a lot of days. My loved ones used to tell me it wasn't happening but it was. To thine ownself be true meaning if you know this is happening it is. You have a cellphone with a video recorder on it. Record it and then play it back and you'll show your household and friends that it is true. I am autistic and I've been done this way since 1992 and it doesn't feel good. It made me hostile to those i love and made me angry. I don't talk about it often but I thought that I would share it with you so that you don't feel alone!

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    ghayes

    almost 2 years ago

    2 comments

    Hey everyone! My name is Georgina Hayes, and I am a proud mother of two children, a girl and a boy. They are in sixth grade and in fourth grade, and I am starting to suspect that my daughter, Anna, who is 11 years old and in sixth grade, is being bullied. We just moved from Boston this past summer for my husband's work (there company was moving down here), and my husband and I have lived in Boston since we got married, and we were ready for a new adventure. We were hoping the kids would be, too. We were much more worried about moving Anna. My son, Patrick, is already making new friends. He is very funny and talkative. But Anna is more on the quiet side, and sturggles with friendships a little bit more. It was really hard for her to move, because she had to leave her one and only true BFF, Bridget, who she has been best friends with since pre-school. Everyday after school, Anna goes to cheerleading practice, and Patrick goes to a friends house. I work until 5:00, which is when Anna is done with cheerleading. But everyday when I come to pick her up, she has unexplained bruses and ripped jackets. Valentine's day just passed three days ago, and in her bedroom closet (which I clean whenever it gets messy), way hidden in the back, I saw a crumpled up note that was written to my daughter. It said TO: THE LOSER GIRL. FROM: YOUR WORST ENIMIES. Then, on the inside, it said: Roses are red, violets are blue, you're the loser girl, AND NO ONE LIKES YOU!!!! Happy Valentine's Day! From, you know who!!!! This made me extremly worried. My kids are the best thing that ever happened to me, and I swear that they are the best kids, and they don't deserve anything like this at all! I also see my daughter have an exhausted face after cheerleading everyday, and then she goes straight to her room and I thought I have heard crying in there. She stays in there until dinner, which she barely eats or touches. Then she goes to her room, says she is doing homework, but I still hear on and off crying, and then goes to bed. She sleeps in later than ever on school mornings, and eats breakfast and gets dressed as slow as possible. She also frequently asks me to stay home, with no peticular reason. And when I ask her how her day was, she sighs and says "it was okay", every time! I really want to know what is going on here, but my daughter won't tell me a soul! Do you have any suggestins?

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    lolacc09

    about 2 years ago

    2 comments

    I made a probably poor choice in venting to the wrong person about a co worker. They know I did it-I am sorry, I was in tears over upsetting them. I said I was sorry and then was ignored-the next day I tried to talk to them again and ignored still-except when I was not around, then they told everyone who would listen about how they got in trouble and it was my fault. Thankfully one friend of his told him he should have done his job right and he wouldn't have gotten in trouble-he did not agree. I am off the next two days, then I will see him again. I don't want any input about how I deserve it-I get it, I can't undo what happened and he won't let me say how bad I feel. I already told his 2 closest friends/co workers how bead I felt and that I regret what I did and what happened (he was verbally reprimanded for something he knew was wrong but did anyway-he would have gotten away with it if not for me). I already feel like crap-but this passive agressive thing is a nightmare. Thanks for any advice. I have been avoiding him as best I can.

  • Greceaaaa2_max50

    grace2U

    about 2 years ago

    786 comments

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