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Are You Bullied At Work? Here's What you Can Do

This article was Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PsyD on April 29, 2019 — Written by Crystal Raypole and publish in Healthline.

Have you ever experience or familiar with any of these behaviors at work.

-Co-workers might become quiet or leave the room when you walk in, or they might simply ignore you.

-You might be left out of office culture, such as chitchat, parties, or team lunches.

-Your supervisor or manager might check on you often or ask you to meet multiple times a week without a clear reason.

-You may be asked to do new tasks or tasks outside your typical duties without training or help, even when you request it.

-It may seem like your work is frequently monitored, to the point where you begin to doubt yourself and have difficulty with your regular tasks.

-You might be asked to do difficult or seemingly pointless tasks and be ridiculed or criticized when you can’t get them done.

-You may notice a pattern of your documents, files, other work-related items, or personal belongings going missing.

If this is your experience, you are being bullied or if you experienced this, you were bullied and if you know someone who is going through this, they are being bullied.

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying according to Crystal Raypole is harmful, targeted behavior that happens at work. It might be spiteful, offensive, mocking or intimidating. It forms a pattern, and it tends to be directed at one person or a few people.

A few examples of bullying include:

  • Targeted practical jokes

  • Being purposely misled about work duties, like incorrect deadlines or unclear directions

  • Continued denial of requests for time off without an appropriate or valid reason

  • Threats, humiliation, and other verbal abuse

  • Excessive performance monitoring

  • Overly harsh or unjust criticism

Criticism or monitoring isn’t always bullying. For example, objective and constructive criticism and disciplinary action directly related to workplace behavior or job performance aren’t considered bullying. But criticism meant to intimidate, humiliate, or single someone out without reason would be considered bullying.

What are the various types of Bullying?

It can be subtle and come in all forms for example;

  • Verbal. This could include mockery, humiliation, jokes, gossip, or other spoken abuse.

  • Intimidating. This might include threats, social exclusion in the workplace, spying, or other invasions of privacy.

  • Related to work performance. Examples include wrongful blame, work sabotage or interference, or stealing or taking credit for ideas.

  • Retaliatory. In some cases, talking about the bullying can lead to accusations of lying, further exclusion, refused promotions, or other retaliation.

  • Institutional. Institutional bullying happens when a workplace accepts, allows, and even encourages bullying to take place. This bullying might include unrealistic production goals, forced overtime, or singling out those who can’t keep up.

How can bullying affect your health?

Bullying can have significant, serious effects on physical and mental health. While leaving a job or changing departments could end the bullying, this isn’t always possible. Even when you can remove yourself from the bullying environment, the impact of bullying can last long after the bullying has stopped.

Physical health effects of bullying

If you’re being bullied, you may:

  1. Feel sick or anxious before work or when thinking about work

  2. Have physical symptoms, such as digestive issues or high blood pressure

  3. Have a higher risk for type 2 diabetes

  4. Have trouble waking up or getting quality sleep

  5. Have somatic symptoms, such as headaches and decreased appetite

Mental health effects of bullying

Psychological effects of bullying may include:

  • Thinking and worrying about work constantly, even during time off

  • Dreading work and wanting to stay home

  • Needing time off to recover from stress

  • Losing interest in things you usually like to do

  • Increased risk for depression and anxiety

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Low self-esteem self-doubt, or wondering if you’ve imagined the bullying

What to do if you’re being bullied at work

First, take a moment to remind yourself that bullying is never your fault, regardless of what triggered it. Even if someone bullies you by making it seem like you can’t do your job, bullying is more about power and control, not your workability.

Begin to take action against bullying with these steps:

  • Document the bullying. Keep track of all bullying actions in writing.

  • Save physical evidence. Keep any threatening notes, comments, or emails you receive, even if they’re unsigned.

  • Report the bullying. Your workplace may have a designated person you can talk to if you don’t feel safe talking to your direct supervisor.

  • Confront the bully. If you know who’s bullying you, bring along a trusted witness, such as a co-worker or supervisor, and ask them to stop — if you feel comfortable doing so. Be calm, direct, and polite.

  • Review work policies. Your employee handbook may outline steps of action or policies against bullying.

  • Seek legal guidance. Consider talking to a lawyer, depending on the circumstances of the bullying. Legal action may not always be possible, but a lawyer can offer specific advice.

  • Reach out to others. Co-workers may be able to offer support. Talking to your loved ones about the bullying can also help.

How to help when you witness bullying

If you witness bullying, speak up! People often say nothing out of fear they’ll become targets, but ignoring bullying contributes to a toxic work environment. Workplace policies against bullying can help people feel safer about speaking up when they see bullying happen.

If you witness bullying, you can help by:

  • Offering support. Support could involve acting as a witness if the person targeted wants to ask the bully to stop. You can also help by going to HR with your co-worker.

  • Listening. If your co-worker doesn’t feel safe going to HR, they may feel better-having someone to talk to about the situation.

  • Reporting the incident. Your account of what happened could help your management team realize there’s a problem.

  • Staying close to your co-worker, when possible. Having a supportive co-worker nearby could help reduce instances of bullying.


Bullying is a serious issue in many workplaces. While many companies have a zero-tolerance policy, bullying can sometimes be hard to recognize or prove, making it difficult for managers to take action. Other companies may not have any policies about bullying.

Taking steps to prevent workplace bullying can benefit organizations and the health of their employees. If you’ve been bullied, know you can safely take steps to combat the bullying without confronting the perpetrator. Remember to take care of your health first.


About Gifford Thomas

I am the founder of Leadership First and the author of The Inspirational Leader, Inspire Your Team To Believe In The Impossible. At Leadership First, we are committed to publishing the very best inspirational leadership quotes and articles to inspire our 250,000+ community of leaders to believe in the impossible, while creating an environment free from toxic, fearful and intimidating leadership. We believe everyone can and should enjoy their work, but it must start with the leadership leading by example. Follow our community of leaders HERE, and let's change the leadership status quo to help inspire and motivate our leaders to make a difference and create an organization their people will love.

You can pick up your copy of my book The Inspirational Leader, Inspire Your Team To Believe In The Impossible by clicking the link below

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