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Do You Too Need to Stand Up to Workplace Bullying?

When we think of bullying, we think of children and of bullying in school or on the playground. The sad fact is that bullying can be just as much an issue for people in the workplace. Bullying is never easy to deal with no matter where or how it occurs. Bullies push boundaries.


I have a client who was in a situation at work. She had been working there for four years and had received positive feedback about the quality of work that she was doing from two previous supervisors.

Kim’s current supervisor was giving her a hard time, criticizing her work at every opportunity and telling her she was useless, and Kim’s supervisor was telling others in the office the same thing about Kim, too. Kim was beginning to be afraid to go to work. She was showing symptoms of anxiety because of the bullying that she perceived was going on in her office.

When Bullying Makes You Afraid to Go to Work

There is an expectation that we have of being safe in our place of work. Most people spend a great portion of their waking hours at their job. Typically, a standard work day is at least 8 hours. If you consider the fact that there is a one hour lunch break, then you are at work for 9 hours. What happens when you are afraid to go to work?

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach pain
  • Tension headaches
  • Irritability
  • Bowel issues

This is not a comprehensive list; there are many ways that people show distress over being bullied.

What Does Bullying Look Like at Work?

  • Sarcasm, directed in an offhand manner and constant criticism. (I was only joking)
  • Violence, in any form
  • Harassment, like name calling and personal insults
  • Devaluing of a person, physically or emotionally
  • Being shouted at
  • Intimidation

You are allowed to refuse to be abused. Kim did the right thing. She recognized that, in her situation, speaking directly to the bully was not going to work. She worked in a place with a wonderful human resources department. She was able to go to them and tell them that she was ready to leave. In fact, she had applied for numerous jobs and had interviews lined up.

Human resources was actually able to arrange a speedy resolution by talking to the person who was doing the bullying. The supervisor had not been aware of the effect that her behavior was causing and immediately changed it. This kind of result can happen, although it doesn’t always work out that way.

Kim was able to stay in her preferred job and develop a better relationship with her supervisor. Others are not necessarily as lucky and the only resolution that works is to find other employment.

What Can You Do if You are Being Bullied at Work?

Stand your ground by being assertive and knowing your own value…and assertive is different from aggressive.

Visualize a peaceful resolution for all involved.

Report it, and document it if necessary, especially if you don’t feel safe in addressing the bully directly.

Be prepared to walk…to find other employment where you can be respected, if the situation cannot be resolved in a peaceful manner.

The most important thing to remember is that no one deserves bullying. The best defense is to have good boundaries and to recognize that you deserve to be treated with respect, no matter where you are. All relationships need to be rooted in respect, and the work place is no different. 

Unfortunately, bullying is more common than it should be. That doesn’t mean that it is to be tolerated, in any circumstance. When we stand up to bullying in the work place, we validate our self worth and draw a line in the sand. When we set those boundaries…all of us…bullying will eventually come to an end.

"Drive your own life…you deserve to, don't you?"  Sherie Venner

** My client's name has been changed to protect her identity…

Image Credit:  jscreationsz

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I am a Relationship Coach who helps others create happy, healthy, loving relationships…including the relationship they have with themselves…by breaking through those blocks and barriers to success. I use various techniques gathered through training as a Master Practitioner of NLP, timeline, hypnosis and common sense gathered through life experience.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rolf Stålhandske July 25, 2012, 8:11 am

    Sorry Sherie, your intentions are so good and should be working, but new research show that the efficivness of anything you do as victim of bullying in workplace including the methds you reccommend are really sadly meager.
    See this link :

    And I know how really hard severe bullying can hit you and destroy your mental balance and health, as a psychiatrist with this subject as special interest and engagement since many years.

    • Sherie July 25, 2012, 9:31 am

      Rolf, thanks for taking the time to comment. I can only go by the client that I had and this strategy did work for her. Will it work for everyone? Sadly, no…and that is the nature of bullying, as I am sure you are aware.

  • Theresa Cifali May 8, 2012, 4:38 pm

    Fantastic post, Sherie! It is so nice to see someone talking about and bringing awareness to this rampant problem in the workplace. It was good to see a positive resolution come from Kim’s situation. Hope you keep discussing this!

    • Sherie May 8, 2012, 5:07 pm

      Thank you, Theresa and I think I will keep discussing this…Kim was one of the lucky ones, there are others who don’t have such a quick and positive resolution.

  • Dr. Sarah David May 8, 2012, 5:38 am

    Sherie, you have addressed such an important topic in the workplace today. Although there are many great employers out there, many know there is bullying behavior going on in their organizations and refuse to do anything about it. They either promote the bully or they get rid of or are hostile towards the employee that reported the incident. So sad. People that find themselves in these circumstances should know their rights and if need be consult with an attorney or other organization that can provide direction. Thanks for sharing!

    • Sherie May 8, 2012, 10:07 am

      Sarah, you are absolutely right! Thank you so much for your comment!

  • Maxwell Pinto May 7, 2012, 12:59 pm

    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

    • Sherie May 7, 2012, 1:43 pm

      Maxwell, I really appreciate your clarity on this matter. Workplace bullying does have severe consequences and in this particular issue, the matter was cleared quickly. Unfortunately, that is not always the case and there is a lot more work that needs to be done. I thank you for your comment.

  • Lorii Abela May 4, 2012, 6:56 am

    Yes, I also do agree that bullying happens in a workplace. The tips that you have shared will surely help those individuals that are experiencing this.

    • Sherie May 4, 2012, 9:35 am

      It does happen…thanks so much for your comment, Lorii!

  • Anita May 3, 2012, 10:44 am

    Lots and lots of small and large business owners here are addressing this issue! Great and timely post!

    • Sherie May 3, 2012, 6:51 pm

      Thank you, Anita, I appreciate your comment!

  • Sue Graber May 2, 2012, 11:02 pm

    Great article. A couple days ago was just told about a teacher who stood up for a special needs kid who was being bullied and really wasn’t supported by the administration… Very frustrating that so much of this is happening at work and school — but it can never be tolerated. Thanks for sharing & helping others see they’re not alone.

    • Sherie May 2, 2012, 11:12 pm

      Sue, I so appreciate your comment. It saddens my heart that this type of behavior is being tolerated in the education system…it should never be tolerated.

  • Suzanne Jones May 2, 2012, 8:52 pm

    Oh boy do I know how Kim feels. It has been because I don’t roll over. I have always been very nice (until I need to be assertive) and receptive, did what I was told, etc. But, when I get steamrolled I step up. I do not put up with it ever. I speak my peace whether they want to hear it or not because it is truth. I even consistently went to their boss.
    They don’t like that. Therefore I have been the brunt of harassment on many levels. Thankfully I am thick skinned so I could tolerate it but not without some of the symptoms you mentioned.
    In the end though, just as you mentioned, once things were brought to light, the message was, they didn’t realize what they were doing was a negative thing.
    Great post Sherie!!!

    • Sherie May 2, 2012, 10:17 pm

      Thank you so much, Suzanne! Wow, those are quite the experiences you have had and look at you…how you have overcome it all…so often, they don’t realize that they are doing a negative thing!

  • Mandy Edwards May 2, 2012, 8:14 pm

    Great article! I’ve never thought of bullying in the workplace. No doubt it happens. Thank you for bringing this up!

    • Sherie May 2, 2012, 10:18 pm

      It is becoming more common and it does need to stop. Thank you for your comment, Mandy!

  • Susan Myers May 2, 2012, 4:31 pm

    Powerful words for someone to hear: “The most important thing to remember is that no one deserves bullying. The best defense is to have good boundaries and to recognize that you deserve to be treated with respect, no matter where you are. All relationships need to be rooted in respect, and the work place is no different.”

    • Sherie May 2, 2012, 7:15 pm

      Thank you so much, Susan….I so appreciate you commenting!

  • Alexandra McAllister May 2, 2012, 9:56 am

    Great article, Sherie. I also know someone who is going though this at work. It is such a shame how this impacts her life. I will suggest she read your article. Thank you.

    • Sherie May 2, 2012, 7:15 pm

      Thank you, Alexandra, I hope that it helps give her some insight…this is just the tip of the iceberg of this issue…unfortunately…

  • denny hagel May 2, 2012, 9:32 am

    Great article! I have always believed that bullies, adult or child, are the result of mistreatment in their own lives…sad. Thanks for sharing your insights!

    • Sherie May 2, 2012, 7:16 pm

      Thank you so much for your comment, Denny!

  • Sara Nickleberry May 2, 2012, 9:31 am

    I know someone going through this very thing and it’s been going on for years. Unfortunately, HR has not really been able to help. How sad that this is a common thing!

    • Sherie May 2, 2012, 7:17 pm

      It is sad that it is a common thing, Sara…sometimes HR can help, other times they can’t…it is a big issue in the world…thank you so much for your comment!

  • Rob Hodgins April 30, 2012, 3:06 pm

    Bullying is VERY common in the workplace. And it can be a nightmare to endure. I like the steps you suggest.

    I’ve always maintained that bullies (and bullying) are a disease because of the impact they can have on a person’s health and sense of well-being. I’m glad that your friend found a solution to her bullying problem.

    No one deserves a bully!

    • Sherie April 30, 2012, 8:06 pm

      Absolutely, Rob, no one deserves a bully and it is very common….thank you, I am glad that you liked the steps…I hope to delve more into this in the future…thank you so much for taking the time to read the article and to comment!! : D