Bullying in the Office: What You Should Know About It

This is a guest post from my good friend at What Your Boss Really Thinks.

“I have Fired People Before. I am Not Afraid To Fire Anyone.” Have you ever heard your boss say something like this? You know what I call it? B.S. I also call it bullying in the workplace.

If you have heard these words from your boss, you either need to start taking steps to protect yourself or you need to start looking for a new job. Or both.

Bullying in the workplace is becoming a big issue nowadays. However, bullying can take different forms. Recognizing bullying is not as simple as it seems. If you are very sensitive, you might mistake a grumpy look for bullying.

A cold shoulder or a rude remark might not qualify as bullying. Calling someone a “moron” can be bullying. However, it also can mean that someone might be having a bad day.

It is important to realize that not every unpleasant interaction can be defined as bullying. Usually bullying in the workplace takes the form of a repeated non-physical indirect form of violence.


Recognize Signs of Bullying:

  • When someone is repeatedly threatening to harm someone (emotionally, physically, mentally).
  • When someone repeatedly exercises verbal humiliation.
  • When someone screams or yells in front of the other employees on a regular basis, attempting to berate or intimidate.
  • When someone is being rude and condescending to others on a regular basis, attempting to undermine their reputation and work.


Three Reasons Why People Do It

We probably will never know what goes on in a bully’s head, and why they think they have the right to belittle and degrade others. As someone who has dealt with a workplace bully I find the following to be the most common reasons:

  1. Someone thinks they are the Alpha because they are a manager, a supervisor, a team leader and you are not. They feel that they can dominate, and do whatever they want. Sadly, they think that because they are in a higher position than you are, they have immunity. It is important to know that they don’t have immunity.
  2. Someone feels threatened by you for a variety of reasons: you have a degree that they don’t; you have more experience than they do; you make more money than they do; people listen to you and don’t listen to them. They simply don’t like you.
  3. Someone gets off by emotionally battering others. This is how they build up their self-esteem. This is how they improve their self-image. They use others to make themselves feel better.


What You Can Do if You are Being Bullied At Work

Don’t be afraid to speak up and stand up for yourself. Draw boundaries, request to be respectful. People can force you to feel ashamed of yourself and be scared of them only if you let them. Don’t let them do it!

Don’t blame yourself. Recognize that it is not your fault. Acknowledge that you are working hard and doing your best.

Document everything that happens. The more proof you have, the stronger case you will be able to build against your bully.

Report either to your supervisor or directly to HR. This part can be tricky. If your boss is the one who is bullying you, I’d recommend going directly to HR. If your coworker is a bully, try talking to your direct supervisor first. If you feel that nothing is being done to address the issue, I would recommend going to a higher-up manager or HR.

The sad part is that a majority of people are afraid to confront bullies for the following reasons:

  • They are afraid that HR will not deal with the issue.
  • They are afraid of the emotional confrontation with their bully.
  • They are afraid of losing their job.
  • They are afraid of any conflict in the workplace.
  • They are afraid of retaliation.

If you are a victim of bullying, do not be ashamed of it. Do not be afraid to confront your bully. Your workplace should be accountable to their employees and to the work environment it provides.

About the Author:

Your Boss is the creator and author of What Your Boss Really Thinks, where she expresses her opinion and advice on career, job search, management issues and office life. Your Boss created her site to help people to better understand their boss, give a direction and provide some guidelines on how to navigate life in the office. Feel free to ask her about your office or career dilemma by submitting an Ask Your Boss form on her website. 

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About the author: Carrie Smith is the financial artist and owner of Careful Cents, a site that helps creative freelancers overcome financial mountains and make a living on their terms. In May 2013 she quit her full-time accounting job and now works as a full-time business consultant and blogger. She recently launched a new service called, The Client Connection, which matches the best clients with quality freelancers. When she’s not writing about finance, and geeking out over numbers, she enjoys painting, sketching, and making food with her chef husband. You can connect with her in real time on Twitter or Instagram: @carefulcents.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Tahnya Kristina November 17, 2012, 7:05 pm

    I can’t believe that bullying exists anywhere, but especially in an office. It actually happens a lot in my office and the sad thing is that the bullying is usually done by management. Great post.

  • Dominique Brown November 19, 2012, 7:21 am

    Great post! Although I have not experienced being bullied in the office,
    I definitely agree with you that no one should allow themselves to be
    bullied in the workplace. You should not be afraid to stand up for
    yourself. Also this is an employer’s nightmare and can completely stifle an employee’s development.

  • K November 21, 2012, 1:38 pm

    From my experience going to HR, unless you can get other to corroborate you story, it will only make matters worse and the offender will set you up to fail and document every time you do and try to make you so miserable you will quit.