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Bullying In The Workplace

Lately I’ve been disturbed to hear people recount their experiences of bullying in the workplace. Bullying in any situation is vile and unacceptable and can render the person on the receiving end into “victim” mode, leaving them feeling helpless, disenfranchised, disempowered and often depressed …

bullying is a dirty word - it's not big and it's not clever

It matters not what label you put on this behaviour; it matters not with what “excuses” a bully justifies their actions. What matters is that it is wrong, it is unacceptable and whilst it may seem like a fruitless task to attempt to change bullying mentality, what you can do if you’re exposed to this cowardice is think about and change your own behaviour and response. Always remember the equation, situation + behaviour = outcome. I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that sometimes you may find yourself in a situation which you might not like or feel comfortable with; you may not be able to change that situation, but you can change your behaviour and hence influence the outcome.


Unfortunately, bullying is rife in life, however for the purposes of this blog, I’m going to focus upon bullying in the workplace; do remember that what you’re reading is relevant in many – if not most – scenarios. Let’s take a look at Wiki’s definition:

“Workplace bullying, like childhood bullying, is the tendency of individuals or groups to use persistent aggressive or unreasonable behavior against a co-worker or subordinate. Workplace bullying can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation. This type of aggression is particularly difficult because, unlike the typical forms of school bullying, workplace bullies often operate within the established rules and policies of their organization and their society. Bullying in the workplace is in the majority of cases reported as having been perpetrated by management and takes a wide variety of forms. Bullying can be covert or overt.”


Much research has been undertaken into workplace bullying and with some variations, this has been typified into five different categories:

  1. Threat to professional status – including belittling opinions, public professional humiliation, accusations regarding lack of effort, intimidating use of discipline or competence procedures
  2. Threat to personal standing – including undermining personal integrity, destructive innuendo and sarcasm, making inappropriate jokes about target, persistent teasing, name calling, insults, intimidation
  3. Isolation – including preventing access to opportunities, physical or social isolation, withholding necessary information, keeping the target out of the loop, ignoring or excluding
  4. Overwork – including undue pressure, impossible deadlines, unnecessary disruptions
  5. Destabilisation – including failure to acknowledge good work, allocation of meaningless tasks, removal of responsibility, repeated reminders of blunders, setting target up to fail, shifting goal posts without telling the target

And you know what’s interesting? Many people who are instrumental in this type of behaviour don’t view it as bullying and are completely oblivious to the impact of their actions and behaviour. So stop and think for a moment: how do you behave towards your colleagues and the team you lead? Do you behave in a professional and considerate manner to get the best from the people around you or could your actions sometimes err towards unacceptable? Could your words and behaviour affect someone so adversely that they become anxious at the prospect of coming into work at best or end up feeling so stressed that they take time from work and even feel depressed to the extent of suicidal thoughts at worst?

If any of this rings true, what can you do about it? Have you issues of your own inadequacy that you need to address? Are you merely inexperienced as a communicator or manager and do you need training for your role? Do you have challenges in your personal world which somehow dictate your behaviour at work? Whatever the reason – open your eyes and deal with it; you have a responsibility to yourself and – more importantly – your colleagues and there are plenty of resources available from which to seek help.


What about if you’re on the receiving end? Dealing with workplace bullying is a lengthy subject which can involve procedural and legal avenues, in addition to gaining control of your own feelings and responses – I’ll tackle the latter in more depth in my next blog post about self-esteem and self-confidence. However, you can find lots of helpful information at www.bullyonline.org.

Remember also that irrespective of someone else’s behaviour towards you, it is you – and only you – who controls how you allow yourself to feel. It is you – and only you – who is in control of your thinking and behaviour. If over time you’ve been intimidated and worn down by a bully, you may have developed an habitual behaviour akin to submission; you might believe all sorts of negative things about yourself which – if you stop for a moment, take stock, examine and consider from a rational perspective – are actually untrue and have absolutely no substance. If you find yourself in this situation, then it’s time to get rid of the “victim” mentality and take your power back – and that comes from within. That may look like a far away and perhaps inaccessible picture to you right now, however with a few simple techniques which you’ll be hearing about in next week’s blog, you can begin your journey to self-empowerment.

A last tip for this week – check out my post about the effective NLP technique of Anchoring and consider which resourceful state or emotion will help you to successfully feel empowered to deal with a bully; follow the steps in the post and you’ll be happily surprised at how easy it can be to control the way that you feel when faced with any potentially negative situation which you used to view as scary!

Do contact me if you’d like help on an individual basis to tackle some of the issues raised within this post; you can reach me by phone on +44 (0) 7932 060360 or by email if you’d prefer.

Be outstanding …

FAZ COLBHIE