Workplace Bullying: Ultimate Guide

By: | Updated: April 08, 2024

You found our guide to workplace bullying.

Workplace bullying refers to one or several colleagues mistreating another. For example, this issue could include offensive conduct or threatening behaviors. Bullying at the workplace creates a toxic environment that harms employees’ mental health and productivity. Responding to bullying is also known as “addressing office bullying” and “bullying prevention methods.”

This concept is an element of workplace toxicity. This article is similar to workplace relationships, loud quitting, and grumpy staying.

This guide covers:

  • addressing office bullying
  • bullying prevention methods
  • workplace bullying definition
  • workplace bullying examples
  • steps to address bullies at work

Let’s get to it!

Workplace bullying definition

Workplace bullying happens when an individual at work consistently mistreats or abuses another employee. This mistreatment can include being mean or intimidating or even sabotaging their work. Usually, the bully has more power than the victim, like being their boss.

It is important to recognize and stop workplace bullying to keep the work environment positive and make sure each individual feels safe. Organizations can create rules and policies that deal with bullying and prevent it from happening. Dealing with workplace bullying early can make employees happier and more productive.

Workplace bullying examples

Workplace bullying often manifests subtly but can severely impact workplace culture. Here are a few examples of how bullying occurs in the workplace.

1. Harsh Verbal Treatment

Verbal abuse is a common type of workplace bullying where an individual uses harsh words to hurt others. This language can include humiliating comments, yelling, spreading rumors, or constantly criticizing. The bully uses words to control and threaten their coworkers, causing emotional damage. Verbal abuse disrupts the office and lowers the victim’s productivity and morale.

2. Exclusion

Exclusion at work is a sneaky type of bullying that is easy to miss. This issue happens when an employee purposely leaves a coworker out of important messages, social gatherings, or meetings, making them feel alone. This act can really hurt the excluded individual’s confidence, making them feel unimportant and left out. As a result, this employee’s work suffers, and they feel bad emotionally.

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3. Undermining Work

Bullying at work can include tactics like undermining an individual’s work or efforts. This sneaky behavior might involve spreading rumors, making fun of ideas, or purposely making someone fail. The bully might pretend the comments are just teasing or criticism, but they are meant to hurt the victim’s reputation. These actions can really hurt the employee’s ability to work and how they feel.

4. Micromanagement

Micromanagement happens when bosses excessively control their employees’ work. This behavior can make workers feel less confident and restricted. Micromanagers want to oversee too many details, causing stress and lowering productivity.

To prevent this issue, it is important to encourage employees to make decisions on their own and solve problems creatively. Companies should train supervisors to guide, not control, to keep the workplace respectful. Employees do best when they feel trusted to do their jobs with minimal interference.

Read about ways to deal with micromanaging bosses.

5. Unreasonable Workloads

Excessive workloads can be a hidden form of workplace bullying. When employees get too much work that they cannot handle, it is a kind of indirect harassment. Continuously stressing out employees without recognizing the overload shows a bad work culture. Supervisors need to know that this behavior hurts employee health and lowers productivity and morale.

6. Scapegoating

Scapegoating is a common type of workplace bullying in which a team blames one individual for the whole group’s mistakes. This issue leads to unfair criticism and pressure on the victim, hurting their emotions and work quality. Scapegoating damages teamwork and makes the workplace unfriendly, stopping colleagues from working together well.

7. Discrimination

Discrimination at work means treating an individual unfairly because of who they are, like their race, gender, or age. Discrimination can happen in different ways, like not giving a worker a promotion because of their ethnicity or making offensive comments about their religion. This behavior makes work feel bad and makes individuals less productive and happy. Employers should have rules against discrimination and teach employees about respecting differences.

8. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a type of workplace bullying where a worker tricks a colleague into doubting their own thoughts or feelings. This process can be subtle, making the victim feel unsure and powerless. Gaslighting often involves lying, denying events, or twisting facts to confuse the victim. Ignoring gaslighting can seriously harm the victim’s mental health. It is important to recognize gaslighting and protect yourself from its effects at work. Being aware of this manipulation and getting help from trusted coworkers or professionals can help you defend yourself against gaslighting.

Steps to address bullies at work

Companies have to be proactive and use bullying prevention methods. Here are a few steps firms and employees can take.

1. Bully Identification

Identifying a workplace bully can be tricky because they often use subtle tactics. Bullies try to make themselves feel superior by putting others down, intimidating them, or embarrassing them. These employees might criticize their colleagues’ work all the time or spread rumors to hurt their reputation. A bully might also downplay a coworker’s efforts or keep important information from them to make it harder for them to do their job. It is important to recognize these signs early and step in to stop the bullying. Identifying bullies is crucial for keeping the workplace positive, productive, and respectful.

2. Official Reports

Setting up official reporting channels for workplace bullying ensures employees feel safe and supported. Leaders can create a system where employees can report bullying incidents to a designated individual, such as an HR manager or a trusted supervisor. The process should be simple and confidential, allowing employees to report bullying without fear of retaliation.

Additionally, organizations can provide multiple reporting options, such as online forms, anonymous hotlines, or in-person meetings. Once firms receive a report, they should investigate it and take necessary action. Having clear guidelines and procedures for reporting bullying helps create a supportive and respectful work environment.

3. Supportive Environment

Creating a supportive workplace is crucial for dealing with bullying. This process encourages respect, teamwork, and understanding among coworkers. When employees feel supported, they are more likely to speak up about mistreatment or harassment. This positive atmosphere boosts productivity and job satisfaction.

Establishing a supportive workplace means communicating openly, showing empathy, and having clear rules against bullying. Companies can prevent bullying by promoting kindness and inclusivity.

4. Bullying Policy

Having a clear policy is crucial for addressing office bullying. This document needs to clearly say what counts as bullying, what happens to those who bully, and how to report it safely. It is also important to make sure all employees know about this policy and get training on it. That way, the whole team knows what is not okay and what to do if they see or experience bullying. Following this policy shows that the company cares about respect and keeping employees mentally healthy.

5. Documenting Incidents

It is important to document incidents of workplace bullying carefully. Victims should record any harassment, unfriendly actions, or disrespectful comments. When documenting bullying, write down when and where the incident happened, who was involved, and what occurred. If you have any proof, like emails or messages, keep them too. Be sure to make copies of all your records and keep them safe. This evidence can be very important if you need to report the bullying to your bosses or if it becomes a legal issue. Good documentation shows that the mistreatment is happening and helps you stand up against the bullies.

6. Bystander Intervention

Bystander intervention is important for stopping workplace bullying. Coworkers who see bullying might feel scared or unsure about what to do. However, stepping in can help stop the bullying from continuing. You do not have to confront the bully directly. Instead, you can support the victim, tell a supervisor what happened, or encourage the victim to speak up. Making a workplace where bystanders feel comfortable and supported can reduce bullying and make the work culture healthier and more respectful.

7. Conflict Resolution

Workplace bullying can cause conflicts among staff, so it is important to have methods to resolve them. It is best to talk openly about the problem instead of ignoring it. Having open, honest, and respectful conversations can help solve the issue. It is also important for each individual to feel safe talking about their concerns. Bringing in a neutral third party to help with the conversation can also be useful.

Here is a list of books about conflict resolution.

8. Bullying Awareness

Being aware of bullying is essential for keeping the workplace positive. This understanding helps teams see and deal with any behavior that could hurt employees’ well-being and work. Companies can host workshops or trainings to teach employees about the signs of bullying. When workers learn to notice bullying early, it encourages them to treat each other with respect at work.

9. Support Networks

Workplace bullying can make victims feel alone and powerless, so having support from others is important. It is crucial to talk openly about bullying and have a way to report it confidentially. Online forums and groups can offer comfort and advice. Colleagues, family, and friends can provide emotional support and help find solutions. Also, counselors or therapists can give tools to deal with stress from work. Having a strong support network helps victims of bullying get through it and handle the emotional strain.

10. Legal Assistance

Getting legal help is important when dealing with workplace bullying. A lawyer who knows about employment law can give you important advice about your rights and options. These professionals can guide you through the complicated legal process for handling bullying at work. Legal help ensures your safety and helps you take the right actions to solve the problem. Having legal support can make you feel stronger and help you find a way to fix the situation.

11. Training Programs

Training programs are important for stopping bullying at work. These workshops teach employees how to recognize, address, and prevent bullying. Lessons cover communication skills, ways to resolve conflicts, and promoting a respectful and inclusive culture. Investing in these programs reduces bullying and builds a stronger team.

12. Disciplinary Actions

Workplace bullying is a serious issue that may warrant decisive disciplinary actions. Employers have a duty to create a safe, respectful environment for employees. Companies can address bullying through performance reviews, mediation, or formal complaints. Serious incidents may require suspension or termination. Employee assistance programs or counseling support affected individuals.

13. Coping Strategies

Strategies for coping with workplace bullying include setting boundaries to protect yourself, seeking support from colleagues or HR, and documenting incidents. Establishing clear communication channels with the bully can also address the behavior professionally. It is important to prioritize self-care through activities like exercise, meditation, or speaking with a therapist to manage stress caused by bullying.

Final Thoughts

Workplace bullying is a serious issue that affects individuals and organizations alike. Every team member needs to understand what constitutes bullying and how to prevent it. Firms can foster an environment that discourages such behavior and encourages respect. With this behavior, firms can make their workplaces safer and more productive spaces.

Next, check out our posts on management books and examples of bad leaders.

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FAQ: Workplace bullying

Here are frequently asked questions about workplace bullying.

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying is the repeated mistreatment of an individual in the workplace. Bullying can be verbal abuse or conduct that is threatening, intimidating, or humiliating.

What are examples of workplace bullying?

Examples of workplace bullying include harsh verbal treatment, exclusion from group activities or decisions, or undermining a colleague’s work or contribution.

How can management prevent workplace bullying?

Management can prevent workplace bullying by creating clear policies against such behavior. Further, companies can provide training programs on respectful communication and conflict resolution skills.

How can you protect yourself from bullying at work?

You can protect yourself from workplace bullying by documenting incidents, seeking support from trusted colleagues or superiors, and reporting incidents according to your company’s policy.

Why is it important to address workplace bullying?

Addressing workplace bullying is important. Bullying can lead to a toxic work environment, decreased productivity, increased employee turnover, and potential legal liabilities for the organization. Moreover, addressing bullying is a matter of basic human dignity and respect.

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CEO at
I write about my experience working with and leading remote teams since 2010.


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