What to Do If You’re Being Bullied at Work

Bullying has become a mainstream concern in recent years, particularly among young people, but the awareness raised about bullying behavior has started to affect people of all ages and in all places.
It might seem odd—we’re mostly talking about adults in places with lots of rules—but workplace bullying is real: The Workplace Bullying Institute estimates that more than 60 million workers are being bullied just this year. (You can view their infographic here.)
What Bullying Looks Like
Workplace bullying may not have all of the classic schoolyard characteristics, but it is similar in many ways. It can include:

  • Put-downs and name-calling
  • Deliberate exclusion from groups
  • Harassment
  • Theft
  • Intimidation

And while co-workers can be the source of this behavior, because bullying is about power, it’s most often top-down in nature, with supervisors bullying their staff. LGBTQ people, immigrants and racial minorities are particularly targeted. Learn a little more about how it works.
Bullying can have deep, dangerous psychological effects on the targets, leading to long-term issues with mental and physical health. Part of what makes it dangerous is that people often don’t realize what’s happening or think that it’s normal. If you’re being bullied, though, you need to find a way to end it.
How to Stop It
Because of the power dynamics involved, bullying in the workplace is a difficult problem to solve; WBI estimates that a targeted person who takes action is only helped about 30 percent of the time, and even then the bully is punished very rarely.
It’s important to remember, though, that it’s not your fault if you’re being bullied, and that you are not alone, and there’s a lot that you can do.
WBI includes a number of action steps to take, and you may find that your best scenario doesn’t follow that straight a line, but the most basic course of action says to “name” the bullying, take off time (if you can) to heal and assess your options for action, and then take that action. Exposing the bully is important, and not just for you.
Because a lot of bullying comes from supervisors, and statistics indicate that working with your human resources department may not have a positive result for you, you may find that your best option is to actually leave for another job. Anything you can do to better your situation is ultimately the best decision!