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How to Handle Workplace Bullying

Updated on March 10, 2011

What is Workplace Bullying?

Workplace bullying is harassment, sabotage, and general negative behaviors directed towards you and your work that occurs at the job and within the office. This bullying can take many forms from co-workers taking credit for your work, spreading rumors and lies about you on a personal level, purposeful sabotage of work projects, and tensing and taunting that is designed to get you to quit your job. Both co-workers and supervisors may engage in this type of behavior.

Why Does Workplace Bullying Exist?

My experience with 2 plus years of workplace bullying reveals that it occurs from envy and because the office environment rewards such behaviors. Negative workplaces breed negative behaviors. If there is something to be gained with the supervisor in terms of special favors in exchange for malicious gossip about co-workers, than no wonder the office is full of such exchanges. Sometimes you can have one “bad seed” that comes into an office environment and encourages negative attitudes in order to cover up for personal workplace weakness and low job performance. If this person has a dominant personality, than he or she can change the landscape of the workplace into a negative zone of workplace bullying. This is what occurred on my job. Once the office environment becomes too negative it is difficult to regain that positive environment. It is really up to supervisors to ensure that workplace bullying does not occur within the office environment. However, if the supervisor encourages or supports workplace bullying, than the situation tends to get worse.

How to Deal with Workplace Bullying if You Cannot Quit Your Job?

The current recession and tough job market means that employees may not be so ready to move from job to job to escape the negative workplace. Workers often feel grateful to have a job. So, how do you deal with workplace bullying? It is very, very tough. I had many days where I did not think I could make it another day due to the harassment and almost torture on the job. Co-workers were sabotaging my work on a daily basis and making it very hard to follow protocol by specifically and actively designing “special rules” just for me to delay my ability to complete my work and sometimes actually block me from completing assignments. No one in a supervisory position would acknowledge that these actions were occurring against me or take my complaints seriously and each complaint for me seemed to encourage more hostile behavior. Other co-workers failed to support me due to the fact that they felt retaliation would occur against them for speaking out against the office environment.

It was very tough to work in these conditions and not call it a day. How did I survive?

1. Believe in Yourself: To survive any type of negativity you have to “pump” yourself up on a daily basis to just get through the day. How do you do this? Remember and keep at the forefront of your mind the reasons why you are working where you are working at that particular time in your life. Is it a job or cause that you really care about? Are you saving up for something? Are you hoping to give your kids a better life? It really helps to focus on something bigger than your personal situation. Support yourself completely that you are making the correct decisions for yourself and your family. Never doubt yourself. Know first and foremost that if you have haters than you are doing something great. Have faith that you will get through the bad times and believe in a future for yourself where you can escape workplace bullying and imagine and look forward to an office environment that is positive.

2. Don’t Become Negative: Maintain your positive outlook and positive behaviors. Do not reduce yourself to the level of the bullies. While you can pop a bully on the nose every once in a while to get them to back off (and it does work), remember that constant negativity only breeds more negativity. You must stay positive and do your best on the job. In the end, the naysayers will not be successful for very long. Negativity means you are not focused on the future. Negativity tears down and does not build. As a result, negativity will not generate long-term success on any projects or goals. Remember that you have goals and hopes for a positive future of much success.

3. Keep Records of Your Bullying: Write down every experience and incident of workplace bullying with the date, players, and time that it occurred. Keep these detailed notes in case you need them if you get fired and need to fight for your unemployment or other court actions. You are protecting yourself by keeping records, which is a very positive and proactive step.

4. Speak Out: Always explain and express your concerns to whoever will listen on the job. Just because you are being bullied does not mean you have to be a mouse. Retaliation is a very real and active threat and you may be scared. If you are so afraid of getting fired that you cannot stick up for yourself even a little bit, than you must decide if the job is worth it. Bullying does affect your psychological and physical health through chronic stress and worry. If you never express your feelings, this situation can be very harmful. Resist as much as possible and voice that you are unsatisfied with the current situation.

5. Confide in Trusted Friends: Friends outside the job situation may be able to give you great perspectives on your current circumstances. Tell these trusted friends everything that you are going through to get their support and encouragement. They will be able to help you if your situation gets worse and support you in your efforts to find a better environment. You don’t need to bottle up your feelings or feel ashamed that you are going through this experience. Workplace bullying is a very common occurrence and a serious problem. Your story is worth being shared.

If you or someone is going through workplace bullying, I know how you feel. I have been there. There are no easy answers. This article shares some of the tactics that I used to get through my experience, but every situation is different. They may or may not work for your situation. Regardless, I hope you find comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Please have faith and take care of yourself.


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    • profile image

      Mays 15 months ago

      Hi everythihg that you sat might sound so thoughtfull but it never works in reality... bullies indeed do not understand polite, tactful, assertive tactics - how about reporting to the police? Would it be effective in your country??? all the nice things that you say about remaining calm and positive blade in the face of the reality.... It is science fiction...

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Thanks @prairieprincess. It can be a really tough experience to go through.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

      Truthfornow, excellent hub on bullying. I really liked your suggestions for dealing with a bully in the office. I, too, went through an experience like this and did not document things, and really let it get to me.

      It sounds like you handled yours in a pretty good way, considering what you were going through.

      I am going to put a link to this on my recent article, too. Thanks for writing. Voted up and more!

    • carrie Lee Night profile image

      Carrie Lee Night 5 years ago from Northeast United States

      Thank you for this article. I always wondered why people are not fired for bullying. They always talk about harassment and bullying during the orientation and to report it, but when it actually happens most look the other way. Where I worked for a short time there was this girl who sort of started to bully me. She was younger than me and a very hard worker. I respected her because she truely did work very hard and meant well, however she was threaten by me because I stood up for myself when she would claim I did something that I did not do. She would get angry alot and I did find out that she was on medication for anxiety. She did not have the temperment for the job, however she was friends with the supervisor who became sensitive to her condition and did not call her out on it often as she should have. Later I was blamed for not showing her courtesy and that I did not take her criticism. I don't take criticism from people that are wrong. Thanks again for this article.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      It helps to have a track record. You can't stop the bullying right away. However, with time it usually gets found out.

    • umeraziz profile image

      umeraziz 5 years ago

      great tips, keeping record of bullying is fine tip to defend yourself in future..

    • profile image

      Tajuana Williams 6 years ago

      My small office have a BULLY. She is the worst employee, always late, I mean every day, calls in with crazy excuses every week, I mena every week and steals time! BUT she finds a way to sabotage others and the worst thing is the bosses dont recognize it!!

    • danfresnourban profile image

      danfresnourban 6 years ago from Fresno, CA

      It can be difficult to deal with workplace bullies, the key is to be patient and persevere until you can seize the moment and turn the tables on your bully. Good luck, and thanks for your hub.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 6 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      @amymarie i am glad you are happy now. It is so hard to deal with bullies at work day in and day out ~ can be very emotionally draining.

    • amymarie_5 profile image

      amymarie_5 7 years ago from Chicago IL

      Thank you for writing this. I've always been a target for bullies at work. I suffered a nervous breakdown at a previous job because it had gotten so out of hand. I'm finally working in a positive atmosphere and although I'm making a lot less, I am much happier.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 7 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      Thanks for all your comments my Hubpages friends. It is great to be on Hubpages. A lot of people are going through bullying at work, and I hope more discussion about this issue helps stop it.

    • profile image

      Motown2Chitown 7 years ago

      Amen, Scribenet and DaNoblest! Most often, the biggest braggarts are the least successful among us - it would only follow then that the meanest are often the saddest, who just really want someone else to feel as bad as they do.

    • Scribenet profile image

      Scribenet 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great hub! Welcome to Hubpages!

      Workplace bullying exists, probably everywhere to some extent. Supervisors are part of the problem when they do not address the situation and productivity is lost due to these "mini tyrants". I like your 5 rules for surviving in such an environment and I agree with DaNoblest 100%; bullies are coverups for poor work ethics!

    • DaNoblest profile image

      DaNoblest 7 years ago from California

      Thank you for sharing this. Many people endure this type of bullying daily. I think you are right about the bully being envious and not wanting others to out perform their poor work ethics.

    • profile image

      Motown2Chitown 7 years ago

      Very well done. Not many people acknowledge that even outside of school, a person can be bullied. It's difficult to handle and it makes a work situation almost intolerable. You said what you did very clearly and very well. Thanks for sharing.

    • lorddraven2000 profile image

      Sam Little 7 years ago from Wheelwright KY

      For awhile this was a big issue woth one of the fire departments I work with. Great insight here.