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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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  • Greceaaaa2_max50

    grace2U

    over 2 years ago

    786 comments

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  • Photo_user_blank_big

    sabrinaconyers

    over 2 years ago

    2 comments

    i am 20 years old and work at a restaurant with about 7 girls ranging in age from 23-61... my sister works with me as well. we are both noticeably half African american. the girls i work with steal tips. and when my sister caught them that is when the bullying began. the girl she caught called he screaming at her at the top of her lungs calling my sister a liar. i recently overheard a waitress talking to my boss about my sister and i stepped in to set the record straight because lies were being told. a different waitress ran over to me (shes 45) and stared screaming and cursing me out about 3 inches away from my face. they all constantly nitpick at my work performance. tell me things im doing wrong when im actually doing it right. boss me around. talk down to me infront of customers. im just wondering i there is anything i can do to stop this harassment. i havent gotten a good night of sleep since this incident. when i think about it my heart races and i start to sweat. i am scared to work with her tomorrow too. HELP ME!

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    MCRYAN53

    almost 3 years ago

    2 comments

    was the victim of being bullied at work every day I came to work someone would yell anti was hurt on the job and after that things went down hill I have saved all my right ups my job was never good enough.One time the lead house keeper almost punched me in the face they fired my old boss and he was okay with me they cut my hours and they wanted me to get the trash and clean the dementia ward also they fired me and when I was fired he told me I would never get another job in this sate and I can not till this day My Name is Mary C Ryan and I live in Trumbull Ct.

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    stephhite

    almost 3 years ago

    2 comments

    I just started this job it takes 5 weeks of training and I just completed week one. I started Tuesday and Wednesday i was in tears because of the way the 2 trainers were looking, speaking, and embarrassing me in front of everyone else in the training. I came home and decided, it's only 5 weeks, maybe they had a bad day, whatever. Today, Friday, I was in tears again for 15 minutes in the bathroom and then pretty much for the rest of the afternoon waves of tears would stream down my face.

    I can ignore the general negativity that comes from the female trainer... I think she hates her life and it shows in the way she talks about the company. She treats us like we are in boot camp... you are teaching us the ins and outs of loans... there really is no reason for the demeaning tone she takes, but whatever, she hates her life... I get it.

    The male trainer is upbeat, he talks, jokes, and encourages everyone in the class... except me. I say hi to everyone in the morning and ask them how they are, I eat lunch with the other trainees and I get along with everyone, I have a great rapport with everyone except this guy. Whenever it is my turn to answer a question he doesn't even acknowledge i answered it right, he moves to the next person. He never says hi back to me in the morning... I look at him, say "Hi Andy" or "Good morning Andy" and he doesn't even acknowledge my existence. Besides that he tells me to cut the attitude all the time in front of the whole class, when I just asked if I had entered the correct number.... really? is that necessary? no. no it isn't.

    After one of the times when he told me to cut my attitude, I finished what I was doing, and asked the other trainer if I could speak with her for a minute.

    We went into a different room, I already had tears because I was so embarrassed, and asked her "Do I have an attitude? I don't mean to if I do, I need to know because I will correct it if I do. I want to learn and I can't understand why he always tells me to cut the attitude."

    She replied with "You're just short. Your answers are very short."

    After that it was time for break. I got into the elevator with 2 of my co-workers and both of them made a comment about it, one said "Why does he pick on you?" and the other said, "He rides you hard."

    I said I don't know, and started bawling.

    I understand the material, I've only been able to run the program twice, but I did very well compared to the others. I don't know why this guy is giving me such a hard time.

    I don't know what to do about it because I am only in training for 5 weeks then I'll be on my own. Can I endure this period with this guy harping on me? I just don't know. I will do very well at the position. I'm a quick learner, attentive to detail, efficient and hardworking. However, this guy training might break me.

    I don't know what to do. Any advice?

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    jonp

    almost 3 years ago

    2 comments

    I WAS BULLIED..at work and i told my super.and he told me it was like brothers. i told him i didnt see my brothers working here.and if he wasnt going to do anything about it i quit. he said do what you have to do. so i quit that day.

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    thumbelinas

    almost 4 years ago

    2 comments

    If you are a union employee, get the union involved. We did. Me and two other co-workers were able to call the girl out that was sabotaging our work and running to the boss for everything to get us in trouble. The boss was also friends with her and would side with her for everything. The boss was also a part of the problem. She denied it at the Union meeting, that she was sabotaging but after that day the sabotaging and tattling never happened again. Her attitude suddenly improved, and so did the boss.

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    sweetncgirl

    almost 4 years ago

    2 comments

    I have been at my current job for almost two years. There is a co-worker that had started at my job in the month of November. My position at work, is training the new employees, well after a month, he is always bad talking me, contradicting me when I am training someone else, and always smarting off at me when the conversation isn't even resulting to him at all. I have reported this several times, nothing is being done. I have a problem with the owners also not listening to me, saying that I am whining like a child, and be an adult and ignore it. I don't know what to do. My husband just started working at this company also, when my husband works with me, this co-worker doesn't talk to me like that. On the days my husband doesn't he is so rude to me, and tell me f### off. This co-worker has talked to me like that in front of the owners. The owners say nothing to him. I hate my job.

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    Verdaria

    over 4 years ago

    36 comments

    You're absolutely right, it IS a death sentence to one's tenure with the company.Bullies usually show their "true colors" early on in the stage, within the first weeks or months.The lesson is don't rationalize for staying in a bad situation; you know it's only going to get worse.So if you resign within the first 3 months or so, you may not even have to put the job on your resume.You then don't have to explain this at interviews.Let's face it, you can only say "it wasn't a good fit," or make up some other "white lie" reason.Who is going to say "I was bullied horribly and that's why I resigned." Who is going to say "my boss made Hitler look like a boy scout." Nobody.My advice is, cut your losses as soon as possible and leave.And a bully will fight you if you get yourself fired to collect unemployment. That's what bullies do.My former supervisor/COO contested 3 previous unemployment claims.Another former employee took her to court to get her last paycheck. Looks like I may be doing the same for my last one as well.Bullies like to prolong torture and misery.People like that eventually reap what they sow because all this negativity reflects on productivity, which will suffer in dollars made.If you can't keep staff, you can't get your work done. You can't work, you don't make money.You don't make money, you have to shut the business down.It's kind of a no-brainer.

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    Desert_Splash

    over 4 years ago

    22 comments

    It seems that 9 out of 10 situations which involve work place bullying are a death sentence to your tenure with the company. Rarely, if ever, does a bullying situation turn out positive for the victim. Think about it. What are your options, really? If the bully is your boss, going over her head, especially if you are new just sets you up for more harassment, more write-ups and more disciplinary actions because HR is likely to side with your supervisor.

    The reason why a bully gets away with the s###! if they are a coworker is because they possibly have something on the boss or they are too valuable to dismiss. You can never win over something like that. The best way to handle it is to cut your losses, find something else and hope that either 1) you haven't been there long enough to have to use them as an employment reference, or 2) the bad reference from that workplace won't haunt you when you are on your next job hunt. Taking legal action only makes matters worse.

  • Selfshots_008_max50

    Verdaria

    over 4 years ago

    36 comments

    I was just bullied for 8 months by a sociopathic Director of Operations (CEO' s crazy wife) who was also my supervisor. You cannot reason with a sociopath. You also cannot confront one unless you are prepared to get fired or resign immediately without notice, obviously. This advice is unrealistic and naive. I went through everything csn866 mentioned. I tried everything to set it straight - a sociopath is a sociopath - "saying nice things" about a sociopath doesn't change that person's mental condition. These people were abused as children or have some chemical imbalance or both. Just resign without notice, be prepared to take the bully to court to get your last paycheck owed, and next time look out for the early signs of a bully. A bully is a sadist. A sadist is a...sociopath.

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    csn866

    about 5 years ago

    8 comments

    Dear jforbes, you cannot confront the bully person. The more you confront them, the more troubles you will have, especially if he/she is your boss. He/She can use performance review to write you up, and set you up for failure. I experienced a bully boss and the work life just like to live in the hell. You don't have a single peaceful day to work. He can find every little thing to attack and insult you publically. I tried to keep quite and it did not work. The only way is to run away from bully people. Otherwise it will hurt your health seriously, and you feel despaired and helpless.

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    Account Removed

    about 5 years ago

    A lot of this advice is passive. Documenting harassment is great advice, but avoiding the bully? What about sitting down with this person and confronting the issue? Passive aggressive avoidance is no way to live your life 8-10 hours of the day.

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    csn866

    about 5 years ago

    8 comments

    This is a very good article. I was bullied by my boss for over a year, resulting in serious illness. I did not know how to deal with him and was despaired. I learned bully now from the article. Thanks very much to share the tips of dealing with bully behaviors.

  • Jay_smaller_max50

    JayCataldo

    about 5 years ago

    30 comments

    One really good tip (if you can stomach it) it to start saying nice things about the bully behind their back to people you're reasonably sure will relay the message. Studies have shown that we usually like people more after we discover they like US ( having a 3rd party deliver the news will make it seem much more credible) so there's a good chance the bully will cease their behavior when they find out that you actually admire them in some way.

    Try not to be over the top when spreading the info around... just mention something positive about their work ethic, intelligence, competence, etc. This should usually do the trick.

    -Jay Cataldo
    http://www.relationshipbonding.com/blog

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    Chucki

    about 5 years ago

    2 comments

    If you're willing to leave the job because nothing's being done about the problem, you have the option of telling the bully to bug off, even if it's the boss. I like to use a whiny voice like Archie Bunker ( Ah, jeeeez. What is this? A bully...?) when I see this abuse going on. The bully will always respond by at least looking at me. Then I take the opportunity to tell him how stupid he is; showing everyone by his bullying that he's a coward. I wouldn't risk this if I was afraid of being fired, but either way, others around you are relieved and grateful when you stand up to a bully. And he may think twice before pulling that crap again if he thinks someone will call him on it.

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