Workplace Bullying

by Kathy Kirchoff

Bullying doesn’t just happen to children on the playground and at school, it happens at work too. Almost 54 million people have reported being bullied at work; that’s over one third of the U.S. workforce. Unfortunately, there are few laws in place against it. Are you in a bullying situation at work?


Who are the bullies?

Co-workers, other employees, contractors, and bosses can be bullies. There are many ways they bully, cleverly choosing their targets, timing, location and methods, and it may include recruiting others to side with them. Their tactics often include being condescending, yelling, swearing, name calling, interrupting you, gossiping, excluding or not responding to you, and making sarcastic remarks. They are a risk to the success of business and to the health of its employees.


Why do they pick on you?

Remember: you are not alone, and you didn’t cause it to happen. Bullies often pick out a new employee or someone they see as weaker or as a threat, that won’t try to stop them, and that they can harass without consequences.  They may sometimes do it to protect their own jobs, and increase their chances of advancing in the company. Recognize the bully and their behavior. They often try to get close to you quickly to uncover your weak spots. Don’t let them intimidate you or make you feel bad. It can affect your mental and physical health.


What can you do?

Fear of dismissal or retaliation keeps employees from reporting incidents of bullying. It’s estimated that 40% of targets never tell their employers.


Here are some tips:

  • Make sure you document the behavior. If you are a union employee, your union may be able to assist you.
  • Talk the situation over with a trusted mentor who can offer you some guidance.
  • Confront the bully in a calm, confident manner. Let your supervisor or co-worker know that their comments or actions are offensive, and give them an opportunity to correct their behavior. Sometimes people don’t realize their behavior is bullying, and just need to be told about it.
  • Prepare for consequences. Bullying often escalates once they are exposed. Your supervisor may dismiss it as a “personality conflict,” which could reflect badly on you.
  • Keep your contact with the bully strictly business and avoid situations where bullying is most likely to occur.
  • Make sure your superiors are aware of your good work. Bullies often try to spread the word you aren’t doing your job well. You don’t want to lose your job because of their behavior.
  • Don’t allow a bully to isolate you from your colleagues and friends at work. You need their support.


There are many things that an employer can do to address workplace bullying. Employers can protect their employees with strong harassment policies, implement a code of conduct policy, and enforce consequences for all bullies regardless of their position or relationship.


This week, Hennepin County approved a policy banning workplace bullying, becoming one of the first local government entities in the country to do so.


One thought on “Workplace Bullying

  1. Targets, victims and witnesses of bullying have a few avenues to pursue (as compared with victims of sexual harassment) when subject to repeated and obvious acts of aggression, spreading malicious rumours, excluding someone socially or from certain projects, undermining or impeding a person’s work or opinions, insulting a person’s habits, attitudes, or private life and intruding upon a person’s privacy. Others include being rude or belligerent, destroying property, assaulting an individual, or setting impossible deadlines. Although bullying is recognized as detrimental to occupational health, there is little political or corporate interest in stopping it.
    In schoolyard bullying, the bullies are children, whose behaviour is controlled by the leaders, i.e. the school administration. In workplace bullying, however, the bullies are often the leaders themselves, i.e., the managers and supervisors. Therefore, reporting a bully to the HR dept, for example, may expose the target/victim to the risk of even more bullying, slower career advancement, or even termination, on the grounds of being a “troublemaker!”.
    Workplace bullying has severe consequences, including reduced effectiveness and high employee turnover. An employee who suffers any physical or psychiatric injury as a result of workplace bullying can confront the bully, report the bully to the HR department or to the trade union, if any, or bring a claim of negligence and/or a personal injury claim against both the employer and the abusive employee as joint respondents in the claim. If the law does not persuade employers to deal with workplace bullying, the economic reality will persuade them. Training sessions can help when combined with a confidential reporting structure, but it is difficult to alter the basic nature of some individuals, who may need counselling.
    Maxwell Pinto, Business Author


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s