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  • Writer's pictureRalph Kellogg

When Bullies Come to Work and What to Do About It

At least once in everyone's career, you will encounter the bully boss or co-worker. It's a fact of life that bullies on the playground often grow up to be the bullies in the office.


Bullies sabotage work, spread rumors, devalue your work output, openly ridicule you, and, in short, make your life miserable.


The sad part about bullying is that while everyone knows it is wrong, there are no state laws preventing bullying – nothing requires your boss or co-worker to be either friendly or pleasant.


However, when bullying occurs in tandem with harassment, a legal case can be made for the bullying behavior.


But let's say you simply work for or with a bully. What can you do to protect yourself, and what steps should you take to defend yourself from abusive behavior?


  • Document the Incidents: Keep a record of the bullying incidents, including dates, times, and details of what occurred. This documentation can be useful if you need to report the bullying formally.

  • Talk to the Bully (if safe): Sometimes, the person may not realize their behavior is causing harm. If you feel safe doing so, calmly and assertively communicate your concerns to the person bullying you. Use "I" statements to express how their actions make you feel.

  • Seek Support: Talk to a trusted colleague, friend, or family member about what you're experiencing. Having someone to confide in can provide emotional support and help you gain perspective.

  • Work With a Therapist: Bullies can take a toll on your emotional health. Working with a mental health professional can help you process events, and they can assist you in developing an action plan for resolution.

  • Report the Bullying: If the bullying persists or you don't feel comfortable confronting the bully directly, report the incidents to your supervisor, HR department, or another appropriate authority within your organization. Follow your company's policies and procedures for reporting workplace bullying.

  • Keep Lines of Communication Open: Stay in touch with HR or your supervisor to ensure appropriate actions are taken to address the bullying. Follow up to guarantee that your concerns are being taken seriously.

  • Take Care of Yourself: Dealing with workplace bullying can take a toll on your mental and emotional well-being—practice self-care by engaging in activities that help you relax and recharge outside of work. Consider seeking support from a counselor or therapist if you're struggling to cope with the situation.

  • Know Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with your company's policies on harassment and bullying and any relevant employment laws in your region. You have the right to work in an environment free from harassment and discrimination.

  • Leave: If the bullying behavior becomes so intolerable, quit. You cannot afford to have a person or organization ruin your mental or physical well-being. If quitting cannot be done immediately, begin working on an exit strategy. Creating a plan can feel empowering and help move you toward a happier future.


Remember, you deserve to work in a safe and respected environment. Don't hesitate to take action to address workplace bullying and advocate for yourself.

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