Thought bullying was something that only children faced on the school playground? Believe it or not, a large percentage of adult Americans suffer emotionally, physically and mentally at the hands of those they work for. In a study released by the Workplace Bullying Institute, more than 35% of all employees in the United States have been exposed to some form of bullying.

Here, we address some common questions about bullying in a work environment:

What exactly is “workplace bullying”?

Workplace bullying occurs when a boss tactfully humiliates an employee. A boss may target an employee in an effort to assert power or as a motivational tool to produce short-term results. It can take the form of personal and professional jabs, insulting someone for anything from their style of dress to their style of work.

How can I tell whether I’m being bullied or just have a demanding boss?

Many times, they are one in the same. So you think your boss is just one of those types of bosses that milk you for all you’ve got or has some ego issues.

You must realize that demands that you perceive to be unreasonable may in fact be unreasonable. And not all bosses have to put you down to motivate you to excel in your position. In fact, bullying practices leave employees feeling estranged, and less likely to work towards common organizational goals in the long-term.

What are some examples of workplace bullying?

If your bosses have exhibited any of the following behaviors, you may be a victim of workplace bullying:

  • They have insulted you on a personal basis.
  • They undermine your ability to perform.
  • They have blamed you for errors that should not be attributed to you.
  • They do not give you due credit for accomplishments.
  • They have set unreasonable expectations for work to be completed.
  • They assume credit for great work you have completed.

What steps can I take to remedy my workplace bullying conflict?

1. “Manage Up”: Clearly communicate to your boss in the style in which they communicate to you. In some cases, your personality does not match with theirs; some jabs that you perceive to be jabs may not be intentional. If communicating in a similar fashion as your manager does not help you to become more of an assertive force in the workplace, other actions should be taken.

2. Disclose your problems to human resource departments: Oftentimes, #1 is not the case in these hostile situations. If you would like to continue working within the organization because you enjoy the content of your work, you should disclose your issues to a human resource department. Many times these problems can be remedied through talking out emotional issues or internal organizational coaching. In other cases, your coworkers may have filed similar claims and your boss may be let go for his hostile management style.

3. Seek the advice of a hired professional: A career coach can be a great resource in helping you tackle issues within the workplace or help you transition into a new organization where your work may be better appreciated. Coaches can help you effectively strategize to implement change on a professional level.

You should always seek to remedy a situation that you find stressful, even if it means reporting an individual to higher-ups or in certain circumstances, leaving your place of work. Take action to fight workplace bullying by sparking a dialogue about it with friends, coworkers and the people you feel have bullied you. By speaking up, you can help to create more pleasant and productive work environments and bring justice to all of those affected by workplace bullying.


Kathleen Firtle is a representative of the Institute for Coaching, a premiere life, career and executive coaching organization based out of New York City.


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