Dealing with Workplace Bullies

Dealing with Workplace Bullies

The following is a step by step guide for the worker who believes that he or she may be a victim of a workplace bully or bullies and wants to put an immediate end to it.


Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has the incident or treatment resulted in my experiencing physical pain, or the fear of it, and is it the result of a deliberate action or actions on someone's part?

  • Has the incident or treatment caused me to feel embarrassed, humiliated, intimidated, inadequate, insecure, isolated or any other unpleasant or uncomfortable feeling?

  • Do you feel that the treatment is unfair or "unjustified"?

  • Is the treatment continuous and directed at you and not others?

  • Am I being discriminated against in anyway? Am I being treated less favourably than others for no apparent reason in matters regarding access to training, allocation of unpleasant duties and so on?

  • Do I dread coming to work each day or do all I can to avoid coming into contact with certain people?

  • Am I taking time off work more frequently than before for illnesses I can't explain or describe? Am I making excuses for not coming to work when previously I would "struggle through" no matter how bad I felt?

All these points are indications that you may be experiencing workplace bullying. It is most important that the bullying is recognised as early as possible because the earlier the problem is recognised and appropriate action taken, the easier it is to resolve. Many victims of bullying do not recognise what is being done to them and wonder what it is that they are doing wrong to deserve such treatment. It is essential that victims recognise that such uncertainty is part of the bullying, that bullying is widespread and that the victim does not have to do anything at all for it to occur.


Is it a supervisor or manager or is it a co-worker? Is the person doing the bullying doing it on his or her own initiative or is he or she doing it on the instigation of someone else? If a group of co-workers are bullying you is there an obvious ringleader?

When taking action on a problem it is usually better to target the actual cause of that problem. Where there are several people involved, target the leader.

Remember that bullies only operate from a basis of power and their backers and supporters are part of that power. Separate the bully from his or her supporters and you take away much of that power.


Whenever you have been subjected to an act of bullying, make notes in writing of the incident, when and where it happened, who was responsible for the act, how you felt about it, potential witnesses and so on. Notes are required to provide the evidence that is necessary if the person or persons responsible for the bullying are to be successfully prosecuted.

Also people who are victims of bullying sometimes report that the act of recording the incident often makes them feel better, irrespective of whether the records are used or not.


Keeping the fact that you are being bullied to yourself only makes the impact of the bullying even worse, mainly because it increases the sense of isolation, which the bully is trying to achieve. The more you talk about it the more evidence you will have to support you when you do decide to take action. Seeing you talk to other people may also serve as a disincentive to the bully.


Do not do the sort of things to the bully that he or she is doing to you, no matter how tempting this may be. Also, under no circumstances retaliate by using any form of physical violence.


Do not resign or seek a transfer, partly because you will be giving the bully a victory, which increases his or her feelings of power, which encourages him or her to further acts of bullying. Also why should you allow people such as these to drive you out of a job or position you enjoy?
Also you may find that if you resign or seek a transfer, your reputation as an easy target for workplace bullies will precede you and you will be immediately set upon by bullies in your new job or position (which is more than likely).


Carefully time your complaint so that it does not appear that you are overreacting or are "super sensitive". Wait until you have gathered sufficient evidence to demonstrate that there is a consistent and continuing pattern of victimisation directed at you. This will prevent the bully claiming that there has been a misunderstanding, a mistake or a temporary and uncharacteristic lapse on his or her part.

When making the complaint do so in writing (keep a copy) and include all the records and other evidence that you have been collecting. Wherever possible include the names of any witnesses there may have been to the events described in your complaint.

It is also important that your complaint goes through the correct channels, at least in the first instance.

If the workplace bullying involves a physical assault on you or the threat of physical harm in any way a criminal act has been committed. Where a criminal act such as the above has been committed the only appropriate response is a direct complaint to the police.

The only way to stop workplace bullying is through a formal complaint, initially to your own manager and then outside your workplace if this is not successful. Your complaint should be in writing, thoroughly prepared and established procedures should be followed as much as possible. In this way you take control of the situation and, as we have seen, there is nothing a bully likes less, because you are, in effect taking away the power on which they depend.

Source: "Bullies Not Wanted - Recognising and Eliminating Bullying in the Workplace" (Office of the Employee Ombudsman)

CLICK HERE to read about workplace bullying.