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What is a Workplace Bully?

Updated on June 24, 2017
KoraleeP profile image

Koralee is an author who studies human behavior. She's passionate about self love, overcoming obstacles, and overcoming bullying.

What is a workplace bully? Someone who works against you making your work life difficult.
What is a workplace bully? Someone who works against you making your work life difficult. | Source

What is a Workplace Bully, and What are Their Behaviors?

Is someone at work causing you stress, and you're wondering why? There is a good chance that what you're facing is a workplace bully.

In this article, we will discuss signs of a bully in the workplace; why bullies reorganize to go undetected; and personality traits of the people that bullies like to pick on (targets).

Resources: At the end, there is an informational video on how to respond to a bully, filmed by the Workplace Bullying Org website. As well as, statistics, resources and links to websites with valuable information on workplace bullying and the steps you can take to deal with, and stop it.

What Signs Are There That a Bully is in the Workplace?

Bullies are usually associated with children and teenagers, but their bad behaviors don't always go away in childhood.

Some bullies don't change when they grow up. Instead of being at the playground, they're now in workplaces around the world. Bullies at work don't always stand out like they did when they were younger. Their bullying at work is usually more of a psychological nature, making them harder to spot. However, there are signs in the workplace if a bully is lurking in the midst.

Why Do Bullies "Reorganize?"

Bullies have certain tactics that they like to use. A popular one is "reorganizing" to go undetected.

What Personality Traits do Workplace Bullies Look for in Targets?

Bullies often target the person that they feel most threatened by in the workplace, either for competency reasons or those related to popularity. If you are currently dealing with, or have dealt with a workplace bully, and want to know the answers to these questions, keep reading.

If workplace bullying is a problem for you, at the end of the article, you will find resources where you can get more information and help for you and your family.

What is a workplace bully? Look for these behaviors.
What is a workplace bully? Look for these behaviors. | Source

What are the Behaviors of a Workplace Bully?

You're probably dealing with a workplace bully if they:

  • Constantly say hurtful things
  • Make fun of your work
  • Always try to make you look bad
  • Have blocked your request for training or a promotion.
  • Poke fun at you about your race, sex, economic background, education, family, or sexuality.
  • Stops you from working with others, or excludes you from joining in on activities that relate to your job.
  • Plays games with your head
  • Gangs up on you, and gets others to do the same.
  • Intimidates you so you feel undervalued.
  • Gives you meaningless tasks that have nothing to do with your position.
  • Gives you projects with impossible deadlines, or doesn't give you the resources you need to complete it.
  • Changes your schedule or hours on purpose, to make your life difficult.
  • Purposely doesn't tell you about information you need to complete your work properly.
  • Grabbing, pushing, tripping, and shoving you at work.
  • Threatening you with equipment or other objects that can be used as a weapon.
  • Hazing or initiation where you have to do something humiliating to be accepted in the workplace.

What A Workplace Bully Is Not

Some practices in the workplace may seem like they're unfair, but they're not bullying. Your boss has the right, within reason, to:

  • Transfer you to another department
  • Give you a demotion
  • Discipline you if necessary
  • Fire you

Telltale Signs That Someone Is a Workplace Bully

What is a Workplace Bully and how can you Spot Them?

If someone is a workplace bully, even if people don't say it out loud, there are telltale signs you can look for. Knowing these signs, will also help if you are thinking about taking a job with a certain company.

  • They will have a high turn over of staff.
  • High rates of absenteeism due to sickness.
  • Morale is down in the department where they work.
  • People working around the bully are overly stressed, particularly if their jobs aren't stressful.
  • Staff takes early retirements
  • People claim sickness as a reason for retirement.
  • Excessive use of disciplinary measures.
  • Work suspensions
  • You will hear them make unkind and unnecessary comments about other staff.
  • The use of private security companies to watch employees
  • Legal action against employees

What is a Workplace Bully and Why do They "Reorganize"

One of the most popular tactics used by workplace bullies to go undetected is to regularly "reorganize." They do this because of the advantages it gives them to continue bullying, and not face the consequences.

  • When they reorganize, if someone is a problem or challenges them, they can be ousted by downsizing, or transferring them.
  • If it's an advantage for the bully, such as someone accepting their bullying, they can redefine their job so they work more closely with them.
  • Every reorganization is a way for the bully to hide their behavior. Everyone is focused on dealing with it; so the bully's workplace behavior can go undetected.
  • The workplace bully can always give the excuse that they are reorganizing for efficiency reasons, and thus be seen as a strong management member.

Who do office bullies target?
Who do office bullies target? | Source

Who do Workplace Bullies Generally Target?

As stated earlier, bullies generally go after the person who is more popular or more competent than they are. Other qualities they look for in a target are:

  • Intellect and intelligence
  • Integrity and honesty (qualities bullies hate)
  • Dependability, loyal, trusting, trustworthy, conscientious
  • Give 110% to their work and expect co-workers to do the same.
  • Determined, successful, courageous, diligent
  • Good sense of humor
  • Creative, innovative, imaginative
  • Optimistic
  • Able to master new skills, and think long-term.
  • Empathetic, sensitive, respectful
  • Easy going and not quick to get angry
  • Helpful, and willing to share their experience and knowledge.
  • Selfless
  • Have trouble saying no
  • Tolerant of others
  • Takes the opinions of others over their own.
  • Prefers solving conflict rather than taking legal or physical action.
  • Forgiving nature
  • Not assertive
  • Need to be valued
  • Approval seeking
  • Strong desire to be reasonable
  • Copes well under pressure
  • Internalizes anger

Click the Amazon link for other books co-written by the Authors Gary and Ruth Namie

Do you Need Help With a Workplace Bully?

What You Can Do To Stop The Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity On The Job

These are powerful words. Does Gary Namie follow through with his book? What are his credentials?

Gary Namie is a social psychologist and is considered by many to be North America’s foremost authority on Workplace bullying. He is the director of the Workplace Bullying Institute, and the national Healthy Workplace Bill legislative campaign. He has also written and co-written an additional 3 books on the topic of workplace bullying with his wife Ruth. For more information about the good Doctors, click the Amazon link above.

In this book, The Bully at Work, Dr. Namie doesn't just tell you how to deal with a bully in the workplace; it also provides insight into the mind of a bully. Sometimes to fix something, you have to go to the source.

American Workplace Bullying Statistics

Workplace bullying - 50% of the U.S. workforce has been a target of bullying or have seen it happen to someone else
Workplace bullying - 50% of the U.S. workforce has been a target of bullying or have seen it happen to someone else | Source

What you can do About a Workplace Bully

Below is a group of resources you can use to help you deal with your situation. Not only do they answer the question "What is a workplace bully," they give you steps to deal with a bully, and provide insights into how the mind of a bully works.

Video - Ways to deal with a Workplace Bully

How many times in your career have you seen a workplace bully in action?

See results

What is a Workplace Bully? Your Comments

Please share any comments or suggestions you have, with fellow readers. Particularly if you have resources not mentioned in this article.

For more information on this topic, check out the articles below written by my fellow Hubbers.


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    • KoraleeP profile imageAUTHOR

      Koralee Phillips 

      2 years ago from Vancouver British Columbia Canada

      Thank you biomechanics2018. I'm sure one day soon laws will be put in place.

    • biomechanics2018 profile image


      2 years ago

      Excellent article, should enact a law against workplace bullying,

    • KoraleeP profile imageAUTHOR

      Koralee Phillips 

      5 years ago from Vancouver British Columbia Canada

      Hi Briege. I'm so sorry to hear about the troubles your daughter is having at work. This article has some further articles and the end to read with suggestions on what she can do.

    • KoraleeP profile imageAUTHOR

      Koralee Phillips 

      5 years ago from Vancouver British Columbia Canada

      Hi Briege. I'm so sorry to hear about the troubles your daughter is having at work. This article has some further articles and the end to read with suggestions on what she can do.

    • profile image

      Briege Wilkinson 

      5 years ago

      I found this information helpful as my daughter is being bullied by her manager who is female and makes her life a complete misery. She loves her job working for alarge well known shoe company and she was delighted to become an employee of the company as it was a means of learning new skills and advance within the company. My daughter is now stressed unhappy and contemplating resigning her manager has made her so so unhappy and her health is now deteriorating. She is an asthma suffer and can have quite severe attacks however this has not been aproblem until now. Your article listed many of the faults and character istices her manager has my daughter has related to me she is not only a dreadful boss but she is a dreadful person. I would be most gratful if you could advise my daughter what course of action to take as she is another of many to be considering leaving this job. There have been many staff who have left recently and no one frm the company or HR department have questioned this continuous large turn over of staff.

    • KoraleeP profile imageAUTHOR

      Koralee Phillips 

      6 years ago from Vancouver British Columbia Canada

      That's great that you have found a way to keep him out of your hair. It's unfortunate though that he's your boss. It sounds like it should be the other way around. I hope some day that situation works itself out. Thanks for your sharing your tips for dealing with your boss who has some workplace bully characteristics.

    • poetryman6969 profile image


      6 years ago

      I have a boss who has some of these characteristics. I find ways to keep him busy and out of my hair. The tactic works remarkably well. Also, I know my job better than he does so he knows that the best way not to appear foolish is to avoid going against me. It is funny sometimes to find my words coming out of his mouth as though he thought of them but as long as it keeps him out of my hair I am very cool!

    • KoraleeP profile imageAUTHOR

      Koralee Phillips 

      7 years ago from Vancouver British Columbia Canada

      Hi Lois: Thank you! I'm glad to hear you haven't dealt with a workplace bully directly, but it can be just as uncomfortable to watch someone else being bullied.

    • LoisRyan13903 profile image

      Lois Ryan 

      7 years ago from Upstate NY originally from Long Island

      Great Hub. Yes there are bullies in my work force as well. And they are not managers they are other employees. I personally have not have any problems but have seen others get bullied. Then when management calls the bully on their actions, they honestly believe they did nothing wrong.

    • KoraleeP profile imageAUTHOR

      Koralee Phillips 

      7 years ago from Vancouver British Columbia Canada

      Hi Alecia. I am really glad to hear that you haven't had much experience with workplace bullies. I totally agree that being cordial to co-workers goes a long way.

    • KoraleeP profile imageAUTHOR

      Koralee Phillips 

      7 years ago from Vancouver British Columbia Canada

      Thank you DDE!

    • KoraleeP profile imageAUTHOR

      Koralee Phillips 

      7 years ago from Vancouver British Columbia Canada

      Yes Monis, I agree it is very hard not to hate work place bullies, but I guess it is important to focus on the bad behavior, not the person.

    • Monis Mas profile image


      7 years ago

      I don't like to "hate" anyone, but seriously: don't you just hate this kind of people or behaviors? It all comes from insecurities, and can really make you dislike your job, just because of that one person... Great read!

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      7 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      You're exactly right- these people definitely exist. Fortunately I haven't had too much experience with these types at work but I can think of situations where I have witnessed people being less than congenial.

      I understand that not everyone loves what they do or getting up in the morning but for the 8 hours a day you're there, you should try to at least be cordial to those around you.

      Great hub!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      7 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      A well researched hub on What is a Workplace Bully. Points made clearly and well explained.

    • KoraleeP profile imageAUTHOR

      Koralee Phillips 

      7 years ago from Vancouver British Columbia Canada

      Thank you MsDora, and you're welcome.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      7 years ago from The Caribbean

      Given these facts, workplace bullying is not often identified as that. Thanks for bringing this to light, and for including the resources.


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