Understanding Bullying Behavior At Work

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Workplace bullying is much more prevalent than you might think. Workplace Bullying Institute reports that 30% of American workers have experienced workplace bullying. Moreover, it occurs not only in the office or on the factory floor; there is also a high rate of bullying among remote workers, at 43%.

A workplace bully can make you feel embarrassed or frustrated by telling offensive jokes or performing pranks that appear playful. It is also possible to be bullied through subtle means, such as giving incorrect information at work or excluding you from social gatherings. It is also possible for managers and supervisors to abuse their power, just as coworkers of a similar rank can do so.

As an example, you might expect constructive criticism from your supervisor. They have to do that as part of their job. However, a bully supervisor may publicly make overly harsh criticisms to humiliate or bring down your self-esteem.

Any job can be stressful if there is bullying at work. It may become a habit to continually check your shift schedule or watch the clock in an attempt to avoid the bully. It can be very frustrating when you’re unable to avoid bullying at work. Those days can leave you feeling angry, humiliated, and insecure. 

The fear of retaliation might prevent you from speaking out. Your rationale may be that the bully’s behavior is less serious than it appears. Perhaps you think simply toughing it out is the best option or that you should change your behavior to cope.

The fact is that bullying at work is not acceptable, and you have nothing to do with these incidents. It doesn’t matter why the bully behaves this way; their responsibility is to control their actions. You don’t have to wait until they understand their mistake. Taking steps toward ending bullying and protecting your well-being is possible.

Types Of Workplace Bullying

While playground bullies may resort to physical violence, bullying in the workplace tends to take on different forms. Common forms of workplace bullying include:

Unlike playground bullies who resort to physical violence, workplace bullies tend to use different tactics. Among the most common forms of workplace bullying are:

Verbal Bullying 

Among the behaviors associated with this type of bullying are name-calling, threats, and other offensive comments. It can also involve more subtle methods of making someone feel bad, for example, by combining constructive criticism with disparaging remarks.

Cyber Bullying 

A cyberbully may be someone who mocks or intimidates a coworker through posts on social media, emails or any other form of online communication. A cyberbully might harass you under your profile picture or in a chat group with colleagues. 

It is possible for cyberbullies to operate anonymously sometimes. According to one study, nearly 15 percent of adults have experienced cyberbullying, the majority of whom are young adults between the ages of 15 and 25.

Social Exclusion 

This is when bullies exclude you from social interactions with colleagues by using the “us vs. them” dynamic. In order to achieve this, a bully might speak behind your back and drive a rift between you and your colleagues. It is intended to make you feel isolated at work or reduce your social standing.


The bully may appear pleasant to the outside, but his actions will undermine the quality of your work. This can be done by your supervisors or managers giving you deliberately vague instructions or giving you an unjustified short deadline. It is possible for coworkers of the same rank to restrict your access to shared resources, which can make your work more difficult.

Bullying Vs. Harassment

There is a difference between bullying and harassment because bullying has a more general meaning, whereas harassment has a rather specific definition. This behavior is considered harassment when a bully targets someone who belongs to a protected class.

Although legal definitions may differ around the world, under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, protected classes are “race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, and genetic information.”

In the workplace, harassment is a form of discrimination that can be illegal if it results in a hostile working environment or if it forces the employee to tolerate it or lose their job.

Effects Of Being Bullied At Work

There’s more to workplace bullying than just feeling uncomfortable at the time. The effects on your body and mind can be long-lasting.

Mental Distress

Your mental health can be adversely affected by bullying. Depression, anxiety disorders, and other mood disorders may be aggravated by it. It is possible that you will feel hopeless as a result of the situation. A bully might instill some of his insults into you, which could result in you feeling deeply self-conscious. As a result, you may avoid interactions altogether in order to avoid ridicule.

Several studies have suggested that bullying has long-term psychological effects. Studies have shown that workplace bullying predicts mental distress after two years. Another study found even longer effects, indicating that workplace bullying predicts mental health issues in men five years later.

Physical Effects

Physical health can also be affected by bullying at work. There is a higher risk of headaches, chronic neck pain, and acute pain for those bullied at work. 

In addition to increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, workplace bullying has been linked to increased levels of stress. In the long run, this can be detrimental to your health, particularly if you have a heart condition already.

Difficulty Sleeping

According to studies, bullying can negatively affect your sleep quality. Having trouble sleeping puts you at risk for other problems, such as lack of concentration, fatigue, memory problems, and mood swings. Your work and personal life can be affected by all of this. It is possible, for example, to become more frustrated and take your anger out on friends, family members, and colleagues. 

Absenteeism And Disengagement

Individuals are not the only ones affected by bullying. It costs businesses as well. Researchers have found that bullied workers are more likely to miss work. It is possible that you will have to call off because of your neck pain and headache.

Maybe you’d prefer to stay home instead of working a shift with the bully. In the event that you do manage to motivate yourself to go to work, you may feel uninterested in what you are doing, thus negatively affecting your job performance and eventually impacting your career.

Why Bullying Occurs At Work

Identifying the reasons for workplace bullying is essential before you try to stop it. Obviously, the bully’s personality plays a big part, but the workplace conditions can also encourage such behavior.

Personality Factors

It is possible for anyone to become a victim of bullying. According to a study, victim personality profiles do not appear to be consistent. The majority of victims do not differ from non-victims. In contrast, a separate study suggests that bullies may share similar personality traits. A bully tends to be:

  • An extravert
  • Disagreeable
  • An insensitive person
  • A dishonest person
  • A strategic manipulator

There is usually a motive behind the actions of bullies. Among the motives may be:


Do you excel at your job? It may be that you are praised frequently for your hard work or that you adapt to challenges more quickly than your colleagues. You might be bullied by someone who feels threatened by your success and attacks you. 

It is possible for bosses to use bullying behavior to undermine employees with the potential to rise quickly within the organization. It is also possible for a bully to attack you based on your popularity with others or the way you are liked by others.

Bigoted Beliefs

There is a possibility that a bully holds bigoted opinions about you and targets you due to your differences. Perhaps the bully is a man who does not support the idea that women should work in your field. It might be that the bully perceives you as a threat due to your race, religion, or sexual orientation. 

Anger Issues 

It is likely that the bully has a poor sense of impulse control due to his hotheadedness. For instance, an abusive boss might criticize you and your co-workers for failing to meet deadlines or for not meeting client expectations. The reason for their anger could be their sense of helplessness, but that doesn’t justify bullying others.

Workplace Factors

You may also be more likely to be bullied if you work in a hostile environment. A 2013 online survey found that healthcare, education, and public service workers were most likely to be bullied.

  • There is a higher risk of bullying behavior occurring in workplaces that are undergoing organizational changes or in places where conflicting demands are present. For instance, a sudden change in leadership or direction might lead to a chaotic work environment accompanied by bullying.
  • It is likely that bullying behavior will be more prevalent in fields that experience a high level of stress. In a short-staffed restaurant, servers might have to wait for several tables at once or a hospital staff that is constantly dealing with life-and-death situations despite sleep deprivation.

However, workplaces that have a “psychosocial safety climate” may see far fewer instances of bullying. Employees work in a safe psychosocial environment when they are aware of the policies, practices, and procedures designed to protect their psychological well-being. 

It may be easier for employees and supervisors in these workplaces to understand how stress can be increased by conflicting demands and inadequate communication.

How To Deal With A Bully At Work – Tip 1: Speak Out

Whatever the circumstances, asserting yourself and protecting your self-esteem are possible, and the first step is to speak up. It is important to keep in mind, however, that not every bully is the same. In some cases, bullies may leave you alone once you have spoken up. There may be others who will intensify their efforts to the point that you take extreme measures to stop them.

Talk To The Bully

Confrontation with a workplace bully can be intimidating, but it is often the best way to resolve workplace bullying issues. In most cases, the sooner you speak up, the better, whereas the longer you delay, the more confident the bully will be.

Respond in a calm and direct manner. Make sure to draw the bully’s attention to their behavior by explaining the impact it has on you and your job. Consider saying, “I respect constructive criticism; however, some of your comments are simply insulting.” You may need to tell the person that if the behavior continues, you will notify someone else.

Unless you are confident confronting the bully will not result in retaliation, then you might want to move on and skip this step.

Talk To Friends

Bullying can leave you feeling helpless and alone. This is why it’s so important to talk about your feelings and the situation to someone you trust. It is not necessary to talk to a coworker about this (especially when you already face social exclusion). You can seek social support from your family and friends. Having someone to talk to can help you remember that you aren’t alone, and you might also get a little advice from them.

By talking to friendly coworkers, you might find out you aren’t the only one targeted by the bully. As a result, it may be easier for you to come together as a team to present a convincing case to your manager or HR department. 

Tip 2: Keep A Detailed Record

Be sure to keep track of bullying incidents either in your journal or on your smartphone. Make a note of the time, place, and details of what happened. Please note the names of any witnesses, if there were any. If you come across instances of cyberbullying, you should take a screenshot of the communication.

As well as writing down the incidents, you can describe how they affected your performance at work. Were you distracted from an important task by their behavior? Were they withholding resources or blocking your progress? When this information is provided, it is possible to show how the bully is hindering workplace productivity.

Be sure to keep detailed but objective records. Don’t exaggerate or editorialize too much. It will help you demonstrate to your manager or boss that you have been targeted if you need to provide evidence for the situation.

Report The Bully

If the bullying continues to be a problem, speak up to your manager. Tell them how it’s impacting your ability to perform your job. Keep your cool and remain professional at all times. Instead of attacking the bully’s character, simply describe what happened and its consequences, using your records as evidence. Your complaint should be filed with the human resources department instead if your boss bullies you.

Following the submission of your report, what should you expect? Your employer’s policies will determine this. Depending on the severity of the bullying, the bully can be terminated, suspended, reassigned, or simply reprimanded. 

If there are no consequences for the bully, you might want to think twice about continuing to work in a toxic environment or if it is possible to find another job.

Different states have different laws regarding bullying at work. In the event that all prior attempts at resolving the issue have fallen flat, find out what legal options are available.

Tip 3: Practice Self-Care

It’s always important to take care of yourself when dealing with the daily grind at work, especially when you are dealing with bullying at your workplace. Considering the following practices can help you cope more effectively:

  • Maintain a healthy sleeping schedule. Sleep deprivation can increase your vulnerability to stress, so make sure you get enough sleep every night. A few habits can help you sleep better, for instance, turning off your screens one or two hours before bedtime.
  • Manage your stress levels by exercising. Take advantage of any physical activity you enjoy, whether it’s swimming, biking, or hiking. Stretching and movement exercises like yoga are also beneficial for easing tense muscles.
  • Eat a healthy diet that contains whole foods to maintain your energy levels. Reduce your intake of packaged foods and alcohol, which can drain your energy and negatively affect your mood.
  • Make positive self-talk a part of your daily routine. Be forgiving of your mistakes and shortcomings. You should acknowledge your strengths, regardless of whether they are at work or home. In this way, bullying can reduce its detrimental effects on your self-esteem.
  • Managing stress and building emotional strength can be achieved through relaxation techniques. There are a number of relaxation techniques available, including deep breathing, a progressive muscle relaxation technique, and meditation with a body scan.

Tip 4: Shift Your Focus

As a result of the bully’s actions, you may not notice some of the more positive aspects of your work. Identify those positives in your life and adjust your focus accordingly. Are there any coworkers you look forward to spending time with? Perhaps you get satisfaction from helping customers or taking care of another work duty.

While focusing on the positive aspects, keep your interactions with the bully to a minimum. It may be possible to work another shift or in a different department if you ask your supervisor.

It’s also important to remember that the bully’s actions are likely an indication of their own insecurities. With that in mind, resist the temptation to search for flaws in your character or blame yourself for the situation. The bully wants to feel powerful, and the less you dwell on their actions, the less influence they have over you.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that bullies’ actions indicate their underlying insecurities. Consider this in mind when you resist the temptation to search for your character flaws or when you blame yourself. As long as you do not spend time dwelling on their actions, the bully doesn’t have as much influence over you as they would like.

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