We’ve all witnessed or experienced bullying at some point or another – in the playground, at the family dinner table, in a relationship etc. While usually bullying is thought to take place between children, it’s actually very prevalent in all aspects of society and between all different group dynamics. A huge place for bullies to migrate and act is actually in your everyday workplace. Let’s take a look at what bullying is, why it happens, and how we can prevent it.

What is bullying?

First, let’s consider what bullying actually is. By definition, to bully someone is to seek to harm, offend, intimidate, or coerce an individual in some form or another. This can be done in numerous different ways such as name calling, blackmailing or physical violence. The act of bullying usually follows a repetitive nature and is the constant harassment of somebody without remorse.


What is bullying in the workplace?

To bully someone in the workplace entails hurting or isolating an individual from the rest of the workforce and is done all too often by both employers and employees alike. Often people in positions of power use this as an excuse to degrade, take advantage of and belittle those that work for them. Bullying in the workplace is also seen between members of staff with the same credentials, in which one employee targets and takes advantage of the other.

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What forms can bullying take place in?

In day-to-day life, bullying can take place in many forms. A bully may be aggressive, rude and derogatory to someone for no reason. If you’re being bullied you may be being shouted at or talked down to, touched in an unwanted manner, or coerced into doing something you don’t really want to do. Bullies will use offensive language to the person they’re bullying such as name calling or swearing. They may also tease or embarrass you for their own amusement and joke at your expense in front of others. The sole goal of a bully is to make somebody feel bad about themselves so they can feel better.

Specifically, in the workplace, bullying may look like interrupting an individual’s work, blaming someone for something that went wrong or belittling somebody’s efforts. Someone may be bullying you if they’re taking credit for your hard work and they may be isolating you from the rest of the team if they leave you out, talk down to you, or make unwarranted jokes at your expense.

If you are being bullied by a colleague, you may:

  • Be relentlessly teased or embarrassed in front of other colleagues.
  • Have your work belittled and insulted.
  • Be interrupted constantly so you can’t complete tasks.
  • Have your ideas disparaged.
  • Be discredited behind your back.
  • Be verbally abused.
  • Be blamed for errors.

If you are being bullied by an employer, you may:

  • Be given difficult tasks in a short time frame.
  • Be made to work more and later than other employees.
  • Get in trouble for minor things that other employees don’t get called up for.
  • Be ignored or refused help.
  • Be refused time off.
  • Have your individual needs put behind everybody else’s in the workforce.
  • Be verbally abused.
  • Be blamed for errors.
Anti Bullying and Bullying Prevention Course

Why do people bully others?

A lot more of us have probably bullied someone in some form or another then we care to admit. This happens for numerous reasons but the root cause of bullying someone usually stems from some kind of insecurity and desire to feel power. Bullies will often receive a sense of power and pride in bullying someone else. This is because belittling someone often makes a bully feel stronger. Bullying stems from the need to feel like you’re in control, which a bully may be lacking in other aspects of their lives.

Remember that while what bullies do is horrific, they’re actually just acting out and projecting their own fears and insecurities. Often, a bully may need just as much help as the person being bullied.

How can bullying affect an individual and how can it affect a work environment?

Bullying someone in a work environment can have a massive impact on somebody’s work performance and their relationships with other employees. However most importantly, it can take a massive toll on their mental health. If someone is being bullied in a work environment, they may feel isolated and hopeless. Being bullied is never a good experience but being bullied in a professional space is particularly hurtful. It makes it incredibly hard to focus on the work at hand and makes it hard to maintain professionalism. A bullied employee may not want to speak out in fear of getting in trouble themselves or causing tension amongst the rest of the workforce.

Ongoing bullying can cause a serious strain on your mental health, especially if you’ve yet to find the courage to speak up. If you’re dealing with the stress that being bullied can cause, it’s important that you look after your mental well-being. If you’re not ready to speak up and report the bully, perhaps simply talking to somebody you trust can lift the weight of your shoulder and help put things in perspective. This will potentially share your burden and they may be able to advise you and give you the courage to speak up.

How can you prevent workplace bullying?

To prevent bullying in the workplace, remember to always treat those around you with kindness and respect. Preventing workplace harassment is easy if you remember to maintain professionalism and always treat others in a considerate manner. This will ensure a stress-free environment that will help enhance your work ethic. If you happen to witness workplace bullying, speak up to put a stop to it. Doing so will prevent hostility from festering and will stop the same thing from happening in private or to somebody else. You should go directly to someone of authority and allow them to take action instead of getting involved yourself. A superior will be able to address the situation from a higher position and ensure it doesn’t continue.

What should you do if you’re experiencing workplace bullying or have witnessed it happen to somebody else?

Being bullied or seeing someone else be bullied isn’t a nice thing to experience but it can be prevented, helped, and stopped. Taking action against a bully can save an individual and potentially prevent the same hostile treatment from happening to somebody else. If you yourself are being bullied in any form, first realize that you are not to blame. The actions of your bully are their own and you are not responsible for them. Doing this will hopefully give you the courage you need to speak up and reach out for help.

When you’re ready, reach out and talk to somebody else in your workplace. This may be a colleague you trust or someone from higher up. It’s probably more helpful to you to reach out to a manager or someone in a position of authority as they’ll be able to directly take action against the bully. If you’re unfortunate enough to experience bullying from an immediate manager, you should report it to the next manager available. This could be someone in a different department, your bosses’ boss, or potentially take the issue to HR.

What will happen once you’ve reported an incident of bullying?

Once you’ve reported an incident of bullying to a superior it’s up to them to take action and then put an end to it. In serious incidents, bullying may be taken above your superior and to HR. Otherwise your superior may be able to tackle the issue themselves sensitively and between the parties involved. Your claim will be investigated impartially, and the evidence will be assessed to see whether it needs taking further. If you have provable bases to your claim, the offending party will be disciplined accordingly, and steps will then be taken to reestablish a healthy work environment. This may include dismissal of the offending party, team restructuring and a stronger emphasis on appropriate workplace behavior.

How should we be acting in the workplace?

Remember that when you’re at work you’re in a professional environment working with other professionals. No matter how laid back or friendly a workforce can be, you should always maintain professionalism to a certain degree. This will prevent personal lives and affairs being dragged into the office. This means treating those around you with respect and gratitude. Consider your own job role and theirs when talking to other employees and remember that you’re being paid to be there and carry out some kind of service. It’s a privilege for you to be working.

If you have bullied or are bullying someone, remember that doing so is a punishable offence and may cost you your own job. Creating a hostile environment is inexcusable and serious and permanent action may take place as a result of doing so.

If bullying has reared its ugly head in your workplace, it might be time to nip it in the bud fast. We encourage you to run our online Anti Bullying & Bullying Prevention Course. Find out more here –

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organizations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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