What Is Bullying In the Workplace?

Bullies Come in Many Iterations and None Are Okay

Bullying at work comes in many forms and is never okay.
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Bullying at work is intentionally causing pain to or harming another employee. According to the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute (WBTI), workplace bullying is “a systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction that jeopardizes your health, your career, the job you once loved. Bullying is a non-physical, non-homicidal form of violence and because it is violent and abusive, emotional harm frequently results."

To make bullying even more significant, a recent WBTI study found that 72% of bullies are bosses. It is scary news because of the amount of authority and control a typical boss has over an employee. 

He or she controls the job description, assignments, deadlines, performance evaluation, raises, promotions, work environment, coworkers, and more.

The boss is someone that an employee has to deal with daily, so there is no respite when the boss is the bully. In some cases, there is not much that you can do if the boss is a bully - especially if he targets multiple employees or generally manages with a bullying style.

You can, however, decrease your chances of becoming a bully's target. Take these steps as soon as possible if you feel that you have been targeted by a bully. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to untangle from a bully's behavior. The more difficult it becomes to repair your self-esteem.

What Do You See When You're Looking at Bullying?

Bullying takes many forms. If you feel as if you are being bullied, there is a good possibility that your instincts are correct. But, specifically, here's what to look for to know that you are the target of a bully.

  • verbal abuse from yelling to swearing to name calling to belittling,
  • physical abuse from standing too close in a threatening manner to throwing objects and punching; threatening to physically harm you,
  • emotional abuse from undermining a coworker’s work and credibility to keeping track of and reporting mistakes, constantly chipping away at your self-esteem and competence via belittling comments and criticism,
  • character abuse from gossiping and lying about a coworker to purposefully damaging their reputation, talking with other employees about your competence, accomplishments (or lack thereof), and other personal business that you were forced to share for time off and other reasons, and
  • for lack of a better word, professional abuse with actions such as repeatedly finding fault with a coworker’s work publically, talking over a colleague at meetings, loudly disagreeing with a colleague to the point of intimidating the person from expressing their views, or ignoring a coworker’s input about their job, schedule, and so forth.

Effects of Bullying

Bullying is characterized by a lack of respect for a coworker. It is sometimes obvious, but its more subtle forms often cause the most damage. The target of a bully is miserable at work and begins to dread showing up at the office.

Bullying is responsible for increased absenteeism, a lack of workplace motivation and employee satisfaction, increased turnover, and a lack of trust and team building among workers.

Additionally, bullying can cause serious damage to an employee's self-esteem and his ability to contribute at work. It can also be responsible for employee depression, physical illness, and severe trauma.

Consider, too, the possibility that bullying is illegal if it creates a hostile work environment due to discrimination or attacks based on any protected classification. These include such factors as age, race, gender, religion, country of origin, physical disability, and pregnancy.

Bullying is never okay in the workplace.

Find out more about bullying and what to do if you are the target of a bully. Prompt action on your part will limit damages to you and your coworkers.