Bullying at Work

Bullying is commonly seen as acts or verbal comments that could mentally hurt or isolate a person in the workplace. It usually involves repeated incidents or a pattern of behavior that is intended to intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate a particular person or group of people.

Identifying the Signs

Bullying should not be confused with constructive criticism or healthy exchanges of opinions at work. There are certain traits that conform to the definition of bullying and some are more easily identified than others. Some prime examples of bullying include:

  • Spreading malicious rumors, gossip, or innuendo.
  • Making jokes that are 'obviously offensive' by spoken word or e-mail.
  • Dismissing a person's opinions.
  • Criticizing a person constantly.
  • Establishing impossible deadlines that will set an individual up to fail.
  • Undermining or deliberately impeding a person's work.
  • Constantly excluding or isolating someone socially.
  • Physically abusing or threatening abuse.

Effects of bullying in the Workplace

People who are the targets of bullying may experience a range of effects. These include: feelings of frustration or helplessness, loss of confidence, shock, anger, anxiety and stress, among more serious health issues.

Ultimately, bullying affects the overall "health" of an organization. An "unhealthy" environment tends to cause: decreased morale and increased absenteeism, which breeds unproductivity in the workplace.

TIPS: Stop the Cycle

The workplace should not be a setting where you or your colleagues are subjected to harassment, bullying, threats of or actual violence. This behavior is unacceptable but unfortunately, people are sometimes exposed to these risks at work. Identifying bullying may be the very first step to mitigating the risks.


If you are not sure if an action or statement could be considered bullying, you can use the "reasonable person" test. Ask yourself: Would most people consider this action unacceptable? If the behavior persists and consistently triggers unpleasant feelings, there are steps that you can take to try to stop the cycle. These include:


    ✔ Tell the person that his or her behavior is not acceptable and ask them to stop.
    ✔ Keep a factual record of the encounters. Record the date, time, what happened in as much detail as possible and the outcome of the event.
    ✔ Keep copies of any unacceptable messages or e-mails received from the person.
    ✔ Speak up! report the harassment to your manager or supervisor. If your concerns are minimized, contact HR.


  • Do not laugh or play it off. This will give a false impression that the unpleasant behavior is acceptable.
  • Do not retaliate. In this case, you may appear to be the “bully” and may cause confusion for those responsible for evaluating and responding to the situation.