Browse Category: Workplace bullying

If You are Bullied at Work

In the past couple of articles we’ve looked at how to deal with bullying in a team you lead or the workplace where you are in charge.

What about if you are the one being bullied? If your boss, or even a colleague is bullying you, how should you handle that situation?

Just as you need to have no tolerance for bullying within a team you lead, if you are the one being bullied, at some point you will need to stand up for yourself in the face of bullying.

Remember, any bullying or harassment in the workplace is unacceptable and needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Everyone, including you, has a right to feel safe at work and to be treated with respect.

However it is important to resist the urge to try to ‘get back’ at the bully or lower yourself to their tactics in your response.

Exactly how you respond in a situation will depend on the specific context. If you find yourself being publicly bullied or harassed your response may need to be different to a situation where you face secret threats or manipulation.

Either way it is a good idea to prepare yourself before you respond so you can be strong enough to be calm and assertive in your response, no matter how loud and abusive the bully might be. If you become angry and aggressive or ‘fight’ back it will not help in the long term and the bully may even be able to convince others that the problem is all your fault.

So hold your ground. Stay calm. Interrupt a verbal tirade by saying that you both want what’s best. Simply showing that you can be brave in the face of a stream of abuse can help deflect a bully. Often, the bully singles out targets who avoid any conflict since they know that they’ll be more likely to get their way.

A powerful way to interrupt a bully is to say their name. Look into their eyes, speak in a strong clear and firm voice, and repeat their name until they stop talking.

Then take control by asking short questions. Ask short direct clarifying questions and keep asking them until the bully begins to calm down. Don’t get into a discussion, just ask further clarifying questions to show you are trying to really understand what has upset them.

Asking questions can be effective in a variety of different situations, including attacks in front of coworkers, private confrontations or in meetings so it is worthwhile learning this technique.

Concentrate on maintaining a calm appearance – no matter how you are really feeling inside. The louder and more out-of-control the bully is, the calmer you need to appear to be in contrast to them.

Paraphrasing the bully’s responses, deferring the discussion until later when things are more measured or others will be present, even gentle humor – particularly if you can laugh at yourself – can all help to defuse a situation.

However you respond, bullying is serious and needs to be addressed. If you can’t handle it on your own, you need to bring in someone to support you in dealing with it. This can obviously be difficult if the bully is the person you report to. When that is the case you may need to look to other parts of your organization (possibly someone in Human resources or your boss’s boss?) or an external Coach or Mentor to help you to tackle the situation.

At some point you may even decide the bullying is not worth your energy in trying to deal with it and you would rather move on. Should that situation arise, take care to never burn your bridges. If you can’t take any more and can’t get help, you can make your exit but be sure to keep your dignity intact.

If you do decide you must leave your position because of bullying, try to make the decision to leave outside of the emotional realm. When you hand in your notice, do so later, with a cool head, not brimming with rants or fuming about the unfair treatment you got from someone. Remember, you may need those people to vouch for you at some time in the future.

When you do it this way, you get to enjoy a better sense of control. You will reach greater heights of success if you manage to hold your head up high and always maintain your dignity.

Finally if you do find yourself needing to deal with bullying or harassment, make sure you care for yourself, manage your stress levels, maintain a balanced perspective and keep your sense of humor. Take the time to feel good about yourself and stay grateful for what you’ve been blessed with. Remind yourself that as long as you’re doing what’s right, you’ll be fine.

Dealing with a bully can be stressful. For powerful stress management techniques check out the Stress Free Course now at: – completely free: My gift for you.

How to Respond to Workplace Bullying

In my previous article we looked at what does and does not constitute bullying or harassment in the workplace. Today I want to look at how you should respond as team leader if it occurs in your workplace.

So how should you tackle bullying if you detect it or suspect it is happening in a team that you are responsible for?

Any bullying or harassment in the workplace is unacceptable and needs to be addressed immediately. Everyone has a right to feel safe at work and to be treated with respect.

You should never ignore bullying or hope it will just go away. If anyone reports, or if you witness or suspect, an incident that could be bullying, you must respond rapidly. Otherwise, your silence is perceived by the perpetrator and others as collusion in what is happening.

If you are in a leadership role, and you observe any indications that bullying or harassment might be occurring, you have a responsibility to stand up and show that you will not tolerate such actions from anyone in your team or elsewhere.

Listen to all team members and encourage them to work together cooperatively on solutions to the real problems they are experiencing. Use individual coaching to help individuals modify their behavior and motivate them to be productive team members. See details about how to do this here:

Just as some people bring out your best, and other people bring out your worst, you can bring out the best in other people even at their worst. It’s a matter of understanding where they are coming from and what is likely to work with them.

As with most team-related issues, the best way to address a bullying problem will depend on the specific situation, but a sound first step is usually to begin a conversation around the behaviors you have observed, compared to what you expect.

Facilitate an open conversation with your team members about team values like trust, respect and how they relate to working together in a team. This can be a powerful and helpful start to addressing the situation.

By securing team agreement about how your team members will treat each other going forward, you will both minimize the likelihood of the situation being repeated and ensure that in future no one can say they didn’t know bullying or harassing actions might be unacceptable.

Take particular care not to allow the bullying victim to be targeted personally during your discussions. Focus on acceptable and unacceptable actions and behaviors, not on individuals, personalities, or character traits. Stay calm but make it quite clear, as firmly and often as seems to be required, that bullying or harassment are not acceptable in any circumstances and will not be tolerated.

If your organization has a formal code of practice or ethics, a corporate values statement or a relevant workplace policy you might discuss how it applies. If such codes or policies do not yet exist, now might be a good time to begin to develop one, at least within your team.

If you don’t feel able to do this, bring in an external facilitator to help you.

Handling such a situation well can even build a stronger team – the sort of team with a positive commitment to positive shared values, that works together to achieve your vision and goals, and that is the hallmark of a good leader.

For details about how to coach individuals to better behavior see here:

And watch out for my next article where we’ll look at what you can do if you are the one being bullied.

Dealing with Bullying at Work

One of the most toxic additions to any workplace is the bully. If you work with (or for) a bully, or one of the people on the team you lead may be a bully it is important to handle the situation carefully yet assertively.

In this series of articles I want to share some tips for how to deal with workplace bullying successfully.

First let’s look at what is bullying or harassment?

A bully abuses any power they have over less powerful people. You will often feel oppressed, humiliated, weak, and belittled after talking to a bully. In addition, you will typically feel worse about yourself. At the same time you may feel obliged to laugh at the comments that are being made about you or to you, even thought they are hurtful or not true.

A bully may be someone who consistently dishes out venomous personal remarks, who takes delight in ruining your day with seemingly harmless yet cutting statements, who takes credit for your work, constantly threatens you with dismissal or demotion, or who is simply rude, aggressive, and pushy. The bully often leaves people feeling threatened and demeaned.

Bullying and harassment might be:

  • physical (being hit, bumped, tripped, pinched),
  • verbal (humiliation, name-calling, teasing, putdowns),
  • psychological (intimidation, sabotage, coercion, manipulation, threats, gestures, being watched or stalked),
  • social (embarrassment, smear campaigns, being ignored or having rumors spread about you)
  • or sexual (physical, verbal or nonverbal sexual conduct).

Bullying and harassment often happens out of sight of other authorities, leaders or managers and is typically repeated over an extended time.

However not everyone who displays these sorts of behaviors is a workplace bully. An isolated incident doesn’t equate to bullying.

Just because someone tells you they don’t like something you did or didn’t do, or you don’t like the way they communicate with you doesn’t make them a bully.

Even if someone yells at you in frustration it doesn’t necessarily mean they are a bully. It may just mean they lack the emotional maturity to express themselves more professionally or they tend to overreact to a stressful situation. Goodhearted people can make mistakes. While issues like these still need to be addressed, they aren’t as corrosive to your workplace culture as bullying or harassment can be.

A bully, on the other hand, intends to intimidate, dominate and disempower and they do it consistently and repeatedly.

The negative effects of bullying and harassment are well known and definitely serious.

Bullying frequently leads to significant effects on work performance, illness, absenteeism and low team morale. In extreme cases post traumatic stress disorder and even suicide have occured.

Bullying can’t be ignored or overlooked. If you are a manager, team leader or business owner, you have at least a moral (and in many places a legal) obligation to ensure your workplace is free from bullying or harassment.

In a few days time we’ll look at how you should tackle bullying when it is happening in your team or workplace…

Meanwhile have a look at some of these Stress and Productivity Resources: