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Are You Being Bullied at Work? Here’s What to Do

If you're having trouble motivating to go to work in the morning, you might hate your job -- or you might be the victim of workplace bullying. Anyone can be a bully at work, whether it's a boss or a co-worker or a client. If you're a target, it's important to recognize your situation and respond appropriately, in order to minimize the damage to your psyche and career.
workplace bullying
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If you’re having trouble motivating to go to work in the morning, you might hate your job — or you might be the victim of workplace bullying. Anyone can be a bully at work, whether it’s a boss or a coworker or a client. If you’re a target, it’s important to recognize your situation and respond appropriately, in order to minimize the damage to your psyche and career.

In a nationwide survey commissioned by CareerBuilder, 28 percent of workers reported they have felt bullied at work — nearly one in five (19 percent) of these workers left their jobs because of it.

The study confirms that bullies can be peers (46 percent) as well as managers (45 percent), and sometimes even higher-ups in the organization (25 percent).

According to experts, there’s a general lack of awareness about bullying and what constitutes bullying in the workplace. Because of this, targets sometimes are not aware that the people they work with are bullying them.

Bullying, whether the target is aware or not, causes a lot of stress, and stress-related health complications. The impact could be physical and/or psychological debilitation, including but not limited to hypertension, heart strokes, depression, etc. The Workplace Bullying Institute shares a comprehensive list of effects of bullying.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

So how do you know you are being bullied? Here are some of the tell-tale actions of a bully.

1. Overlooking or belittling the target’s work and achievement.

2. Backhanded comments on the target’s personal life or any other aspect unrelated to work.

3. Excessive yelling, swearing, and/or causing public humiliation.

4. Withholding critical information relevant to the target’s job with/without the target’s knowledge. Not sharing opportunities that could benefit the target.

5. Overworking, assigning excessive work, making it impossible to complete the job.

6. Keeping track of/maintaining a record of the target’s mistakes and constantly bringing them up even for trivial or irrelevant reasons.

7. Extensive micromanagement and expressing repeated distrust.

8. Blaming without any justification or proof.

9. Isolating the target, socially and professionally.

10. Spreading unwanted gossip and rumors about the target.

So what can you do if you are being bullied?

  • Assess the situation: Recognize if you are being bullied or if this is one isolated incident. When you are in the right frame of mind, reassess your emotional reaction before you take any drastic action. If the unpleasant behavior is targeted over a period of time and repeated, then you need to realize that you are being bullied.
  • Seek help: If you are stressed out, or are facing health issues, address your health and mental well-being first before you decide what to do to better your situation at work. Take a few days off if required and seek professional help.
  • Record your interactions: Keep a note of your interactions where you feel bullied. If there’s a paper trail, threats via mail, witnesses, etc., document your exchanges.
  • Confront the bully: There may be a possibility that the bully does not really know that he is bullying you and that his actions are stressing you out. Having an open discussion gives the person a chance to revisit his behavior. If you see him getting defensive or retaliating, you will have to go higher up the chain or to a neutral third party.
  • Know your organization’s policies: Although it’s not necessarily illegal to bully at work, many organizations have a zero-tolerance policy. Understand how your organization will handle the situation.
  • Report the bully: It is easier said than done, but keep the emotion out of the equation. When presenting your case, be as objective as you can in recounting your experiences and sharing your documented proof.
  • Stay prepared: There may or may not be any action taken, depending on how your organization treats the case, especially if your bully is in a position of power. Before you report the bully, consider what your options are if there is no action taken. Can you ask for a transfer? Apply for a different job? If you need to look for a job, start now. In case things do not go as planned, you don’t want to be left without any options.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you ever been bullied at work? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

This post was updated from an earlier version previously published on PayScale.

Padmaja Ganeshan Singh
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124 Comments on "Are You Being Bullied at Work? Here’s What to Do"

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Susan
Guest

This has happened to me. It is very hard to deal with. And you never understand why anyone would treat anyone that way. You just feel like someone is trying to ruin your career and life for no reason.

Jennifer
Guest

I was bullied at my last job by someone that really scared me. Already a damaged person he would belittle me and constantly berate me. Others got pleasure as they were exonerated from this monster as I was his target. Point being that this type of personality to force a person out of her job should be illegal and ppl that let this type of behavior go on should reevaluate because this psycho will pass on the negative atmosphere to the next. Sicko exposed may karma capture you 50 times worse.

PQR
Guest
If you are being targeted for mistreatment then leave. It is the only sane solution, even if it means taking a lesser job. Don’t sit around waiting for things to get better. Don’t tolerate the behaviour. Don’t believe that your manager or HR will help. LEAVE now and find a better life!! Don’t consider it losing or being pushed around. Consider it winning a battle and escaping. You are getting away from a horrible person as in “I had to quit my last job because my coworker/boss/manager was a psycho/terrible person/lying gossip.” Stop using the word “bullied” as it’s a… Read more »
mickey2942
Guest

Great plan. Not so workable when you have a mortgage, kids in college, and a six figure salary. I take three types of medication, go to counseling, and have chronic IBS now.

If this was a low paying job, if I did not support six people, I would quit in a heartbeat.

Tracy
Guest

Leaving is one option, but that too has its drawbacks. Sometimes people are bullied because they need help being assertive and setting boundaries (I have fallen victim to this problem myself). Find somebody you trust to talk to about the bullying, if that is not possible, start sending out resumes as suggested above. I personally would never let one person push me out of a job that easily…my job is close to home and I need to be close to home!

Mary
Guest
Sometimes it’s difficult to complain if you are being bullied at work. The reason it’s so hard is because bullies are clever in the actions that they take to bully you. For example I’m a very hard working trustworthy person and I’m working in a communal office. The bully there has recruited other staff members to also bully me and make me feel uncomfortable. So now there are about 5 bullies working together and they are quite successful as a bully team. Chinese whispers and when I walk past they all of a sudden talk loudly about the weather or… Read more »
Manne
Guest
I think that people who bully are insecure, feel insignificant, and instead of concentrating on improving their own job performance (or life), try to demean others to make themselves feel better. Personally I would not feel better if I ever made anyone else feel bad, but then again, I have no self esteem issues and I have a wonderful life, family and mountains of support. Perhaps these people don’t and they are still searching for some sort of meaning in their life. I feel sorry for them – but it sounds like in all cases, the person who is being… Read more »
RH
Guest
We always hear about anti-bullying campaigns for children but bullies grow up and end up being our neighbor, personal trainer, boss or the leader of a nation. Bullying is a learned behavior. People aren’t “born that way”. It is taught in the home and if they are not stopped it will continue into adulthood. Bullies want you to feel weak & powerless while completely stripping away your self esteem, confidence until you have nothing left. You are just a shell of a human being after they have taken everything they can emotionally from you. What about when the bully is… Read more »
Alyson
Guest

@RH I am super happy for you that you got a better job with a boss who treats you well. I hear you and understand your scenario all too well. I only hope my own situation resolves as nicely as yours did, and I am going to try and learn from you and get out and look for a better work situation and better pay.

Thank you so much for posting! You are an inspiration. I am in Tennessee, also. East Tennessee.

Mia
Guest
I have experienced this. My supervisor wanted to get rid of me but didn’t have the authority to fire me. They were hyper vigilant in examining my behavior for anything to criticize even the smallest things like I took too long in the bathroom and made doing my job tasks very difficult. If I needed her signature for something you could bet it would be a nightmare of she was too busy at the moment, later unavailable, it’s on her desk but she has more important things to deal with at the moment, etc… She would sometimes put me off… Read more »
Carrie Ward
Guest
I would have to say that when you are getting slapped in the face , literally by a co-worker because they claim they didn’t like the way you asked the person in line for their membership card , and being skipped in seniority when being forced to leave your home department to work on the front end , written up for clocking in too early by 4 minutes and clocking out 6 minutes past your shift, then one day you have no desire to stay and help out by staying 15 minutes over past your 8 hour shift when the… Read more »
Ana
Guest
Two jobs in a row this has happened to me. The last job I had the retired owner was trying to get her grandson to replace me. She would come into the business and with a smile on her face humiliate me in front of customers. She would knit-pick and be on my back the whole time she was there, making a mountain out of a molehill over the smallest, what she considered, infraction. She not only did this to me but to another employee she was hoping would leave. It got to the point where it was affecting my… Read more »
Iris
Guest
Several months ago I managed to land a great job with an excellent company for our area. Benefits are outstanding both financially as well as personally rewarding work. This company is 8 minutes from my front door. ..not to mention my schedule is ideal with daily overtime hours available including most weekends. Dream job, right? It was until one day I happened to catch the attention of the bully in the room. I had a small issue with another coworker one morning and confronted her privately. Stone I was still relatively new there I told our supervisor apt the exchange… Read more »
Rachel
Guest
I don’t care how the bully feels. I only care how I feel and react and after typing it out and talking to my sis and a good friend I’m much calmer. As far as bullies I have dealt with go she is an amateur. I will be civil to her but will not let her walk all over me. I will not avoid her but I will not go out of my way to spend any time with her. Her mistake was doing this in a very public meeting. I don’t think there is a chance that she “will… Read more »
Sarah
Guest
My boss is satan himself. It’s either he’s the real deal or he’s one of his right hand men. This guy is cruel, unfair and he treats the females in the office as though we are animals. He’s so verbally abusive and emotionally cruel and he can never pass up a chance to publicly humiliate you and say what he has to say as loud as he can so that everyone around can hear it. If he finds even the tiniest mistake, he blows it completely out of proportion and berates you in front of the whole staff for long… Read more »
Diana
Guest
I was bullied at work by a co-worker for 2 years, at first i didn’t realized that i am being bullied but over time as the bully’s action kept repeating and my as my health started to worsen and i developed anxiety i felt that i am being bullied. I told my supervisor and my manager many times. But because my manager is new to the Job he talked to the bully many times but she never stop. The bully made friends with one of my supervisors who is often supporting her. I also have hearing problem and i felt… Read more »
Ann
Guest
I too am being bullied by coworkers. I’d seen an email trail about me the coworkers had written that seemed threatening, so I reported it email to HR and my supervisor. They spoke with the coworkers and now the coworkers do not speak to me, try to belittle me, accuse me of doing documents wrong via emails and copy my supervisor and other coworkers. I am a good worker, but this is going too far. And, yes, HR and my supervisor know what they are doing but don’t eem to care. I am now looking for another job.
Joanne
Guest
I worked in a hospital a few years ago and every day myself and other employees were bullied by a supervisor and the management they would swear at staff find problems with their clothes, hair or just find something to bully the others, I went into work with a bad chest infection made worse by asthma I was stopped from using my inhaler every time I went to get it to help with my breathing I was followed by either a manager or supervisor they regularly abused staff, I screamed at me to stop what I was doing and get… Read more »
Mark martinez
Guest
I know one thing a bully can also promote people who you helped train and pass you up again and againg.I personally think there are those bosses who were pushed up ahead of more qualified folks that will only promote those with less experince than themselves because they dont want anyone who knows more to be in their realm.So unfair it stinks as much as that brown crap on their noses.I have seen guys get on in 2010 where I was hired 1998 and know much more about gas measurment .Yet these folks wete promoted thru lies to the bigger… Read more »
Amanda
Guest
I’m being bullied by my coworker. I joined this work place 4 months ago, as her replacement. She has been with company for 35 yrs. and she’s retiring very soon, however everyday has been a struggle, she never includes me in discussion, projects. She withholds information and somehow it looks like the higher ups are scared of her. Basically she setting me up for failure. I think she feels threatened by me, she doesn’t want me to answer an user nor help them. She wants to control me. One time when there was a system outage I had reported and… Read more »
Johnno
Guest
I was bullied at work by an incompetent manager who was appointed to his position by his close friend. This is the very worst situation as it limits any option to shut this guy down, he was guilty of using all the bullies methods listed above, the only advantage was this was a large government corporation in Australia. After repeated requests to his friend/manager about the bullying and getting nowhere I sought advice from a lawyer friend he gave me the best advice which was to keep a written record of everything the bully said and did including in front… Read more »
Unknown
Guest

What should you do if the bullies include peers/colleagues and supervisors? Attempts have been made to address concerns with staff directly, only resulting in negative consequences for me.

anemployee
Guest
I’ve been currently working for a company for almost two years. I’ve been bullied since I arrived by my immediate supervisor and senior, who share an office and are close friends. The senior constantly makes demeaning comments about me and questions my work to this day. The senior constantly makes fun of me and the supervisor laughs about it. Everyone knows yet no one cares, HR is her close friend , who has participated in the bulling as well. I hate them, and the constant bullying is overwhelming. Every Friday at 5 o’clock the find something erroneous with my work… Read more »
Dolores
Guest
I am being bullied at work by a woman and my immediate supervisor, who are friends. Both are insecure, incompetent people and I can’t fathom how they managed to get their jobs in the first place. At first it was just the woman bullying me by complaining to my boss about very serious mistakes I had made. These were false accusations and besides not having made a single one of the mistakes she has accused me of, I am one of the most reliable, honest and hard-working employees in my section with the most experience. I have never been subject… Read more »
leaving crazy
Guest

Leaving is the only answer.
Your smarter, strong and live a more truthful life.
Get away from the crazies.
I worked 30 years to have one program minimize me to nothing.
They will all receive their due karma, we don’t have to wait to see it.
Look now, take action….you can do it.
When I am out totally they will pay

Paul
Guest
Please realise that most bullying is fear on the part of the bully – both my wife and I have experienced extensive work place bullying and know numerous others who have endured similar scenarios as stated here. The single unifying element is the actual or perceived superiority of the victim in the eyes of the bully: this might seem counterintuitive but I’ve found it to be the case in all the cases I’ve seen. From the point of view of a bullying boss – you don’t want a subordinate present in meetings that can point out your errors, so the… Read more »
K. Jones
Guest

Thank you for this article.

Leanne
Guest
Thank you for the article! It’s pretty informative. I’ve experienced bullying in many different facets of life including school and work. I’ve done everything from find other work to calmly confronting the bully to reporting the bully and the later is the thing that has proven most beneficial for me. That’s also the current situation I’m in as I’m working alongside this bully who has refrained from attacking me since I reported him/her. I think different options work for different people, not everyone can just leave their job which is what someone suggested I do. I’m lucky as my company… Read more »
c
Guest

I’m Muslim and im fasting this month which starts sunrise and finshes sunset i work unsoicalible hours. I start work at 8pm and need to break my fast sunset which is at 9.40pm. My manger does not allow me to break my fast at that time. I feel upset about it and would of thought that they will that it in to consideration. I don’t no what to do. Can anyone help???

Carrie Ward
Guest

Ill pray for you cuz i dont have a job at all. Doesnt matter if i pray to Jesus . He still has our backs .

kate
Guest
I know that people will complain about their marriage, and their relationship, especially the women, usually complains that her husband does not love her anymore, her husband cheats on her and even her husband left her, I had a very similar case with them, my husband left me with my two kids for no reason, he said his no longer in loves with me, He walk away for about 5 months, he never called me or the kids, I had a girlfriend, who had a similar case like mine, but her husband is with her now, I told her about… Read more »
Marina
Guest
this is happening to me right at this moment, and I feel betrayed cause I am in this company for 4 years, first problems started a year and 3 months ago… The new coworker came and disabled all the boys in the company, and then it started picking, and after that all of the join in, the point that I can’t communicate with no one, I have to take break in the separate time then everybody else, and I get this huge shitty project that no one wants… I feel so sad… it is like I am not going forward… Read more »
Whitney
Guest
First I’m going to apologize for the long story but I just need to get this off my chest or out of me as I’m almost had it with this job. I dispatch for a towing company and have been here for almost 3 years. I know my job but with most jobs your always learning something new but pretty much knowing what vehicles require a deck truck, a tandem or just a wrecker. and of course what driver to send depending on the breakdown location because I dispatch for two different areas. But most importantly, trying to maintain a… Read more »
Jen Mc
Guest

I am being bullied at work and its horrible. Management doesnt want to deal with the issue. Looking for another job….

joe
Guest
I was attacked while walking to a clients office by a mugger, i was on the clock i was severely injured to the point where my hands don’t work from fighting the person off. I use my hands they are my best assets well they were and I go to therapy but they are injured forever. After telling my manager what happened my whole work, life changed. They kept telling me it never happened at work and what insurance your a scammer, liar etc. I had to get an attorney to get the compensation i need to get the therapy.… Read more »
Kathy
Guest
I have 20 years experience as a hospital healthcare professional. Two years ago I left a lucrative position to help care for an elderly parent in another state. I was hired on at the local hospital. I have been an excellent employee with no demerits to my records. Recently I applied for an advancement in the department I am working in. I was told by my director told me “I have no confidence in you”. I was devestated and did not know what to say. I have no idea where this came from, but have always felt like an outsider… Read more »
kelly
Guest
I know this maybe a little late but I have been bullied and it is a Government job, I was taken back at first and wound up being placed in another Department because of her, the same scenario as described above, she did everything to make me look incompetent and stupid and now that I am no longer there she tries to chat me up. I do speak but I still don’t like her for obvious reasons. I also told management how I felt about it. She has also make me realize you have to speak up I am always… Read more »
Bry
Guest

so been hurt on the job was told since i did not tell our supervisor as soon as i felt sore that they could not cover me under workman’s comp went to the doc put under restrictions got in trouble for going put under restrictions got in trouble again had a meeting got in trouble again feel as if when i get released from restrictions i will just be fired for something else. So what do I do? had problems with the employer in past been threatened to be fired
feels very bad can’t eat or sleep.

Jerry
Guest

Working in a company where the director is a total bully and a narcissist. Continually told to stop talking when having a conversation with him. Shouting also occurs regularly and all aimed towards me.

So I am job hunting as i need to get out of here, but also not talking. Why give him ammo to treat me like this?

There is no one above him so he can do as he pleases. Currently on probation due to starting here.

All a bit of a nightmare

Guest
Guest

I realize now that most of the signs of bullying at work (above) were done to me at my last job. It ultimately led to my unemployment I have spent the last 3 months trying to find a job and have had no luck so far. I prefer that this post remain anonymous, I just want to say that you must report these people and at the same time look for a new job. Do not let them put you in the situation I am in – I will not put up with it again.

Shelley
Guest
I am being bullied at work, physically. 3 times body checked, 1 time pushed, 1 time kicked. Took notes, times, day. Reported it to hr and the plant manager. When I advised them another occurrence I would call police, they told me police would not be allowed past security. Now I’m stressed and depressed and fearful when at work. I want to quit but the thought of starting over causes even more stress. I’m a 50 year old female 5 feet tall and 114 lbs, my assulter is a supervisor, 55 year old male, 5’7 and around 230 lbs. I… Read more »
Karen
Guest

I am being bullied at work she does it every time loudly in front of others. What can I do

Lisa
Guest
Yes I was bullied to for more then two years from 2003 til 2005 and again in 2008 and 2009 in the work force I used to work in a factory I had a nervous break down due to the bullying it just didn’t happen to me but to others to it was group of women bullying other person or me i left in 2009 because of it i couldnt cope with it no more nothing was done with the women involved who did the bullying but bullying was rife there. I went into very deep depression and was suicidal… Read more »
Oscar
Guest

From Matarese Designs: A hockey whiteboard app designed by a collegiate ice hockey coach. downlodable videos Bug will be fixed in next release scheduled January 2013.

Bullied employee
Guest
I am currently going through this. Many people are bullying me, not just one. I have started to look for a different job. You know the sad thing is, before this started happening I liked going to work. Now I’m lucky if I don’t vomit before I walk in the door. I sometimes stand out front of the building and work up the courage to go in. It just got worse a few days ago, I was given something like a promotion of sorts, a position all others in my dept. wanted. I went home early that day, so frustrated… Read more »
maddie
Guest

im being bullied by my boss what do i do

Sara
Guest
I believe I’m being harassed at work. My co-worker is nice one week then very very mean. He tells me to shut up when I’m not even talking to him. He puts his hand up in front of my face when I’m talking to someone else. He lies when I tell somebody what he says to me. I was told also that we both can lose our jobs if we don’t get along. That’s not right or fair!! He’s the one who is the bully not me. I’m the victim but they won’t stop him. They just threaten my job.… Read more »
Hanu
Guest
I am now a days victim of same. Its 3am in the morning , 6 am I have to leave for my office. But there is no sleep in my eyes. I have 6 years of exp. Always being bright employee with joly nature. 6 months back joined a forture 500 company. My manager is surviving due to politics he spent 10 years in this company and now think he is god. He jealous that I am good programmer got recognised in division as he is manual tester now became manager. He thraten me with no reason, he say I… Read more »
Glen
Guest
I was bullied at work until I left. It was my manager who bullied me, She would make comments to people about my appearance. I had also witnessed her making comments about the way other people looked, behind their backs. She would ridicule me behind my back and a few occasions reprimanded me in public, in the car park of my work place once. She has also given me negative references. Was turned down from a job this morning because she would not give a sufficient reference. To coin a phrase “you’ll never work in this town again” She bullies… Read more »
Dispatch
Guest
I was a bus driver for 10 years. Now I am in the office. I worked hard to learn and pass a test for this position. My Union president and Vice President are drivers and they nit pick everything I do. They file grievances on things I do that were done the same in the past . They never win but…… They say things like I play favorites and hide work for drivers I like. NONE of this is true. I don’t know how to do this nor would I ever ( I believe in karma) . They are making… Read more »
Yari
Guest

I am 23 and I’m being bullies by a 50 year old. I have complained to the human resource and Filled a formal complaint about 6 months ago. In March it will be a year that I have been still putting up with this bully.. I need this job for the insurance but I am running out option to go for help and its mentality and physically affecting me. I just feel like no hears me listens to me they just believe her..
Please help me

Lisa fisk
Guest
what if you are repeatedly the target that gets set up at work to fail. For instance both of my bosses higher up and over me have been trying to catch me doing something wrong. I have worked 25 years for my Company. My bosses are young. For instance one of them waited for my back to be turned and took all of the cash out of my drawer and made me believe a customer stole it. this went on for quite some time until they admitted to taking the money!!!!!!!!!The next thing that happened they snuck around me and… Read more »
Deb
Guest

Slowly i have allowed myself to be bullied by various nurses, management and peers, this time it was s staffing agency… what can i do?

Christine Lyon
Guest
My boss told me today that I am the lucky one at work because I am white. We were watching the inauguration and she told me I’m the only one who doesn’t have to worry about being deported. Never mind that I’m the lowest paid employee, the only one who has experienced abuse and poverty (and they KNOW this) and the only Republican in the place. I feel I was unfairly singled out and then the whole office jumped in about how lucky I am to be white and blonde. I was humiliated and spent the rest of the day… Read more »
Dore
Guest
I have a new manager at my office. She told me I had to be nice to her then one day we were to do a telephone conference with my higher manager. We went through this as I made a comment to the manager who snapped shh listen to this. I then tried to extend an olive branch after the call. I was told no I’m not doing that and then she said that she knew I had applied for the job and that I was resenting her for that to which I replied no, after I have seen more… Read more »
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