What To Do If You Notice Bullying in the Workplace

The modern workplace is typically seen as a fast-paced environment where employees are expected to work efficiently and effectively under pressure. However, this positive image of the modern workplace is often overshadowed by the prevalence of bullying in the workplace.


Understandably, many employees’ organizations, unions and individuals have become increasingly concerned about cases of bullying in the workplace. In fact, it is estimated that nearly one in five workers has experienced some form of bullying from their co-workers or bosses.


Further research on the topic suggests that as many as 43% of employees have been exposed to abusive behaviour from their supervisors. However, there are steps you can take to handle a potentially volatile work environment if you notice bullying in the workplace. If you believe that you are being bullied at work, here are some things you should keep in mind:



Know what constitutes bullying in the workplace

Let’s start by taking a closer look at the criteria for workplace bullying. While the exact behaviour that fits the description may vary from case to case, there are some general guidelines for what constitutes bullying:


A power imbalance between the parties involved – In many cases, there is a clear imbalance of power between the parties involved in the bullying. The bully often holds a higher rank than the victim, which makes it easier for the bully to inflict harm.


Repeated harmful behaviour – As the name suggests, workplace bullying involves repeated harmful behaviour. There are some cases where a single event may be considered bullying, but it is usually a pattern of behaviour rather than a single event. This is because bullying is often meant to be sustained over time.


Specific target – Unlike other forms of workplace misconduct, bullying usually has a specific target. This means that while the bully may also pick on other people, the target of bullying is usually identified as one person.


Check your employee handbook

If you believe that you are being bullied at work, you should review your employee handbook. The handbook is typically where employers outline their policies and procedures for handling various workplace issues.


There is usually a clear section on bullying in the employee handbook. If you find that the policies outlined in the handbook are being ignored, you can use the handbook as leverage when speaking to HR or your supervisor. If your company has a specific anti-bullying policy in place, you can use that against your bully. You can also use the company’s anti-harassment policy to report your bully if one exists.


Confront the bully directly

Just because you are being bullied at work does not mean that you are a victim. If you notice bullying in the workplace, you have the power to confront your bully directly. If possible, you should try to confront your bully in a neutral and safe environment.


Stay away from locations where you might be more likely to encounter an aggressive reaction, such as near the bully’s desk. During the confrontation, don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and set clear boundaries. By doing so, you may be able to put an end to the bullying and avoid having to escalate the situation any further.


While this method may be effective in some situations, it isn’t always the best choice. Some bullies may react aggressively to being challenged. In addition, some bullies may be feeling insecure, and confronting them directly may make them feel more threatened.


Escalate the problem to HR

If confronting your bully directly does not seem to be working, you can escalate the situation to HR. In some cases, the bullying may be so severe or is happening so frequently that HR may be required to take action against the bully.


In other cases, HR may be able to step in as a mediator and help you and your bully come to an agreement. You may be hesitant to escalate the problem to HR out of fear that you will be seen as a troublemaker or that you will be seen as weak. However, the truth is the opposite. By escalating the problem to HR, you are taking action to stop the bullying.


Take steps to protect yourself and document the event

In addition to taking the steps outlined above, you should also take steps to protect yourself against the bully.


While this may not seem like the most direct way to handle the problem, it will help ensure that you can keep your job and career intact. While you may be tempted to neglect your job while you focus on dealing with the bullying, you should avoid doing so. This can negatively impact your performance and may lead to termination. You should instead focus on doing your job well, while taking steps to protect yourself from your bully at the same time.


By taking the following steps, you can protect yourself against your bully:


Avoid working alone with the bully. Whenever possible, try to avoid spending time alone with your bully. If you do have to work with them one-on-one, make sure that you have a witness present at the event.


Avoid engaging in any confrontational conversations with your bully. Don’t engage in any arguments with your bully, even if they seem to be baiting you into a discussion. The less attention you give your bully, the better.



Bullying in the workplace is a serious issue. In fact, some experts suggest that workplace bullying is a more significant problem than sexual harassment. However, this does not mean that you have to tolerate workplace bullying.


If you notice bullying in the workplace, you have several options for dealing with the issue. You can confront your bully directly, you can escalate the issue to HR, or you can take steps to protect yourself from the bully. No matter which route you choose, you can put a stop to workplace bullying.

Check out our workplace bullying page

Bullying definition

[Form id="1"]