How to deal with bullying in the work environment – Business & Social Etiquette Blog

EllenRussell-BullyingEven if you have never experienced bullying in the work place I am sure that you will know a colleague or friend who has gone through this extremely unpleasant situation.

Workplace bullying, is defined by Wikipedia as the tendency of individuals or groups to use persistent aggressive or unreasonable behaviour against a co-worker or subordinate. Workplace bullying can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation.

Bullying can be done face to face, in groups, by telephone, text, written communication or e-mail. It can make you feel stressed, anxious, frightened, ashamed, humiliated, weak and angry and can have a huge impact on your self-esteem and confidence.  This can affect your job performance, resulting in illness, long term sickness, and often people have to leave their employment. It can also result in suicide.

Examples of bullying include:

  • physical, emotional or mental  abuse
  • spreading rumours
  • insulting someone  on the grounds of race, disability, sexual orientation, age or religion
  • ridiculing, demeaning, or setting someone up
  • swearing, shouting or being aggressive
  • unfair treatment or excluding someone
  • threatening job security without justification
  • gossiping, whispering about or ignoring someone
  • misuse of power or position
  • unwelcome sexual advances
  • deliberately undermining a competent worker
  • criticising someone inappropriately

If you are the subject of someone else’s bullying behaviour, this must be addressed. You can either try to stop the bulling yourself or put a complaint in to your manager. If you do not feel supported by management take it further and if necessary go to Human Resources, Occupational Health or the Union but do keep going further up the ladder until someone takes you seriously enough to do something to stop the bullying.

It is important to have people you can turn to for support and sharing your feelings will help you through the bullying and help you to maintain your confidence until the bullying stops. If necessary see a counsellor to give you professional help.

When being bullied, if possible ask the person to stop. Put your hand up, probably just in front of your heart, with the palm of your hand facing the other person and say something like:

“I am not comfortable with what you have said, done or whatever.”

“I think that is inappropriate.”

Keep your voice as firm and calm as possible.

If the person ignores or continues with the behaviour which is making you uncomfortable, give them a warning that you will take the matter further. Be realistic and do not say you will do something which you will not carry out.

For instance:

  • “If you continue to speak to me like that I will end this conversation”.
  • “I will report this behaviour to the manager”.
  • “I will not tolerate this behaviour and if it continues I will not hesitate to put in a formal complaint”. 

If you recognise from the above that you are bullying someone else, make an effort to change your behaviour. If you are struggling to do this get support from your manager or seek professional counseling as usually people who bully have been victims of bullying themselves at some point. This is their way of taking control and protecting themselves from being bullied again.

Nothing works in all situations all the time, but here are some useful ways to deal with difficult situations. 

  • Pick your battles wisely.
  • Ask yourself can you win the battle?  Is the battle worth fighting?
  • Be aware that you have a choice, for instance you can stay or leave the situation.
  • You can disengage for a time or end the relationship.
  • You can set boundaries regarding what needs to be done in order for you to stay.

For more information visit my website at The courses are also certified for continued professional development (CPD) if required.

Good Luck


About the author

Ellen is our Business & Social Etiquette Blogger. You can reach Ellen on: Etiquette and Manners, Facebook, Linked In

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