Unpacking ‘Upward Bullying’: Examining the Impact of Workplace Bullying on Bosses.


Workplace bullying is a growing problem in the corporate world. It is a form of abuse and harassment that affects people at all levels of an organization, including bosses, which is known as upwards bullying.


This type of bullying is often referred to as ‘upward bullying’. In this article, we will explore what upward bullying is, the causes of it, the effects it has on bosses, and strategies to combat it.


Introduction to Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying is defined as a form of psychological violence which can be verbal, physical, or emotional. It is characterized by persistent, hostile, and humiliating behaviour by an employee towards their superior or peers. Bullying can have a devastating impact on the victim’s mental and physical health, as well as their productivity and career.


Unfortunately, workplace bullying is a common problem that is often overlooked or not taken seriously. In fact, a recent survey found that over 80% of respondents had experienced bullying in the workplace at some point in their career. It is a problem that can affect people at any level of an organization, including bosses.


What is Upward Bullying?

Upward bullying is a type of workplace bullying that occurs when an employee targets their superior or boss. It can take many forms, such as undermining the boss’s authority, spreading rumours about them or their decisions, or taking credit for their work. In some cases, it can even involve physical or verbal aggression.


Upward bullying can be particularly damaging to the boss, as they may feel helpless in the face of the bullying. It is important to note that upward bullying is different from constructive criticism, as the intent of the bully is to undermine, humiliate, or even harm their boss.


Causes of Upward Bullying

There are several potential causes of upward bullying in the workplace. One of the most common is a power struggle between the boss and employee, which can lead to the employee trying to undermine their superior. In some cases, it may be due to a feeling of insecurity or lack of control.


In other cases, it may be due to a feeling of entitlement, where the employee believes they are better than their boss and feel the need to prove it. It may also be due to a lack of respect for the boss, or a feeling that the boss does not understand the employee’s needs or concerns.


Finally, it may be due to a feeling of frustration or anger towards the boss for various reasons, such as not receiving a promotion or pay raise. Whatever the cause, it is important to recognize that upward bullying is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.


Effects of Upward Bullying

Upward bullying can have a number of negative effects on the boss. It can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also cause the boss to become less confident and less able to make decisions.


The bully may also try to manipulate the boss into making decisions that benefit them, or they may try to sabotage their decisions or projects. In some cases, it can even lead to physical or emotional harm.


Upward bullying can also have a negative effect on the organization as a whole. It can lead to a decrease in productivity and morale, as well as increased turnover and absenteeism.


Strategies to Combat Upward Bullying

The first step in combating upward bullying is to create a safe and healthy workplace environment. This includes providing clear policies and procedures on what constitutes bullying, as well as a code of conduct that outlines expectations and consequences for inappropriate behaviour.


It is also important to provide training and education on workplace bullying, so that employees are aware of the signs and consequences. This can be done through seminars, workshops, or online training.


It is also important to have an open and honest dialogue with employees, so that they feel comfortable coming forward with any issues they may have. This can be done through regular meetings or one-on-one conversations.


Finally, it is important to take any reports of bullying seriously and to investigate them promptly. If the investigation finds that bullying has taken place, then appropriate disciplinary action should be taken.


How to Recognize Symptoms of Upward Bullying

It can be difficult to recognize the signs of upward bullying, as it can be subtle and often takes place behind closed doors. However, there are some warning signs to look out for, such as:


  • Unwarranted criticism or negative comments about the boss
  • An employee taking credit for the boss’s work
  • An employee trying to undermine the boss’s authority
  • An employee refusing to take direction from the boss
  • An employee who is constantly challenging the boss’s decisions

If you notice any of these signs in your workplace, it is important to take action as soon as possible.


How to Support Bullied Bosses

If you suspect that a boss is being bullied, it is important to take immediate action. This includes providing them with support and guidance, as well as helping them to recognize the signs of bullying and how to respond to it.


It is also important to investigate any reports of bullying and to take appropriate disciplinary action if necessary. This will send a message to other employees that bullying is not tolerated in the workplace.


Finally, it is important to provide resources and support for the boss. This can include counselling or other forms of support to help them cope with the effects of the bullying.



Upward bullying is a serious problem in the workplace that needs to be addressed. It can have a devastating effect on the boss, as well as the organization as a whole.


To combat this problem, it is important to create a safe and healthy workplace environment and to take any reports of bullying seriously. With the right strategies and resources, bosses can be supported, and the problem of upward bullying can be addressed.

Let Jolasers help you with your bullying investigation. We have over 16 years experience undertaking complex workplace investigations in Melbourne and Regional Victoria.

For an awesome video on workplace bullying click here