How to deal with workplace bullying

workplace disputes

Bullying in the workplace is never an easy experience, especially when it’s coming from your boss or another senior-level employee. Although there are laws protecting employees from workplace bullying, the difficulty of reporting these incidents can prevent many workers from seeking legal action. If you find yourself dealing with bullying at work, try these seven ways to deal with workplace bullying to help ensure your safety and well-being remain protected during this trying time.

1) First, avoid

The first thing that many people think when they encounter a bully is to avoid them, but experts say that’s not always best. If you can manage it, it’s far better for your mental health and career to try and work things out directly rather than avoid or confront your bully—which could trigger further aggression. Even if you don’t have a direct conversation, there are still plenty of things you can do to handle a bully at work without going too far over-the-line yourself.

2) Speak up

If a co-worker is bullying you, speak up. You can call your co-worker out on their behaviour, or talk to your manager about it. While that may not stop someone from being mean toward you, it will let them know that you’re aware of what they’re doing and don’t appreciate it.

Oftentimes, people who bully others won’t bother if they know others are watching for when their behaviour starts to cross a line. In some cases, confronting your harasser directly can help build a voice for people who were previously at odds in the same situation.

3) Figure it out

When faced with unwanted behaviour, your first instinct may be to lash out in a knee-jerk reaction or hurl a well-chosen insult. It’s understandable. Bullying doesn’t make sense, and we naturally want to fight back when we feel threatened. But before doing anything rash, take a deep breath and ask yourself what you really want. Is it revenge? The chance to stand up for yourself? Or is it just peace of mind and an end to harassing behaviour?

You also might be wondering, when is workplace mediation not appropriate in this case? So, when your problems are beyond a third party’s ability to fix or when you work for an organisation that is too large for one person, if you still think mediation can help, then go ahead and try it. It could be exactly what you need. But if things don’t improve, you might want to consider other options as well.

4) Tell a friend

A lot of people react by not telling anyone—they might be too embarrassed, they might think no one will believe them, or they might feel like it will make things worse. Unfortunately, avoiding an issue usually doesn’t make it go away.

The more you have on your plate, both at work and outside of work, the more you’re going to need someone you can talk to and lean on. Identify a friend who is sympathetic and trusted; chances are that he or she has dealt with similar issues in his or her own workplace at some point. Make sure he or she understands what is happening before you talk about it.

5) Do something differently

Start by doing something differently, even if you don’t know what. Bullies are often looking for an easy target; if you’re different from other people, you become harder to bully. You may have heard about putting bullies in their place; in reality, that’s one of the most self-defeating things you can do.

Instead, change your behaviour slightly (for example, don’t look at them when they talk) and focus on your work or a trusted colleague or superior who will support and defend you if necessary. If nothing else works, changing employers might be necessary.

6) Document everything

Documenting your encounters with a bully is important for several reasons. When it comes time to have an official discussion about what’s happening, you will have evidence of what occurred. Documentation will also give you an idea of how frequently these incidents are occurring and provide insight into whether or not they are pervasive across different groups or departments within your organization.

Collecting information in advance can also help ensure that you don’t forget any details when it comes time for important conversations. If you are having trouble recalling details during important conversations, it may be helpful to write down key points beforehand and refer back to them when necessary.

7) Turn the tables on them

It’s tempting, but don’t stoop to your bully’s level. Bullies typically attack others because they feel weak and powerless in their own lives, so responding in kind is likely only going to make things worse for you. Instead, try turning their tactics against them by refusing to engage at all.

Simply don’t react when they make negative comments about you; wait until they leave or ask someone else what you’re doing wrong. By taking a calm approach, you may be able to outlast a bully who can only sustain his or her behavior for so long without seeing any results.


Finally, the right way to deal with bullying depends on your company’s structure and culture. It’s important to consider your options if you feel like a colleague is unfairly targeting you at work. If talking about it doesn’t help, consider having a conversation with your boss or HR department. From there, think about getting support from an unbiased third party or finding an attorney if necessary.

No matter what, remember that workplace bullying is never OK; don’t let someone else run you out of a job you love simply because they have power over you in some way. You do not deserve to be bullied at work, and as long as you’re willing to fight back—even in small ways—you can overcome anything that comes your way!


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