We all hope bullying will stop entirely, or at least end in middle or high school. Unfortunately, it sometimes happens in the workplace as well.

Workplace bullies can be cruel and demeaning, impacting your job performance and happiness. The easiest thing to do would be to quit, but maybe you love where you work or you are afraid of looking for a new job. Or maybe you just don’t want the office bully to win.

Whether it’s a peer or your boss that’s bullying you, don’t think you’re imagining things: You are not alone. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, 65 million Americans are affected by workplace bullying.

So what can you do when you feel helpless at your job? Here are some steps to appropriately handle office bullying.

Recognize It

Sometimes office bullying is obvious: You know that a person or group of people is intentionally acting malicious toward you. Sometimes it’s not obvious. Maybe a coworker or immediate supervisor isn’t bullying you, but challenging you. There is nothing wrong with encouraging a coworker to be a better, harder working employee.

Bullying is abuse without cause. It will make you feel intimidated or threatened. You will feel like you are being sabotaged and you will feel embarrassed.

When you feel this way, you are probably being bullied. Make sure you know the difference between being bullied and being pushed to be better.

Avoid the Bully

Sometimes this isn’t possible, but if it is, you should avoid the person bullying you. If you can do your job well and avoid your bully at the same time, wouldn’t you want to do that? A bully can’t intimidate you if you aren’t around.

But, if you’re enduring especially abusive behavior, you need to handle it correctly. Otherwise, that bully will just find someone else to make miserable.

Document Bullying Incidents

You need to write down, in specific detail, the bullying incidents that occur at your workplace. Write down what happens to you, when it happens, and how it started. Also note when the offender bullies other coworkers. You can either use paper and pen or keep an electronic file.

Either way, keep it safe and out of the reach of others until you can use it at the right time. This detailed information will help you as you approach management or Human Resources if/when the problem escalates.

Find Your Ally

If you are feeling threatened and bullied by a certain person, find someone who feels the same way at your workplace. They might have been bullied, too. It helps to have someone in the same situation as you, because eventually you will need to confront the bully or approach people in a higher position. At that point, your case will be stronger if someone will back up your story or offer their similar experiences with the bully.

Also, having a friend at work makes you a little bit braver and the day a little bit more bearable.

Confront the Person Bullying You

Confrontation is not easy for many people. Unfortunately, it’s probably necessary in bullying situations.

Don’t think of confrontation as violent or physical. It shouldn’t be. Find a quiet place away from others to calmly explain how they make you feel. Ask if you’ve done something wrong to offend them, out of courtesy. Be polite, but don’t back down.

Tell that person that you don’t appreciate the way he or she makes you feel. Bullies typically hate being found out and confronted. A simple conversation may change the way they treat you.

Go to Human Resources

If, after your private conversation, the office bullying continues, you need to go to the Human Resources department. You might want to try this as your initial reaction to office bullying, but it would be better for you to save it as a last resort — you should explore all other possible solutions before approaching Human Resources or your supervisor.

If you can, bring your ally with you. Include all of the documented evidence and incidents that have occurred. Tell them that you’ve tried to have a personal conversation with the bully to work things out with them — with no results.

Human Resources can fairly decide the next course of action for you. If your company does not have a Human Resources department, go to your supervisor — someone that is higher up than your bully.

Seek a Different Job

It’s possible nothing will change. Your company may not find the bully at fault for any inappropriate behavior. If that’s the case, it’s time for you to find a different job.

Look for a company that has a zero tolerance policy for bullying. You deserve to be treated well at your place of employment. It is not healthy or safe for you to continue to work in a place that makes you miserable.

Bullying is hard for anyone to deal with. Adults should know better, but often don’t. Even if it’s difficult to confront your bully or speak to someone else about it, you need to do it anyway. No one should have to put up with bullying.


Are you the victim of office bullying? Share your stories and tips for handling bullies in the comments!

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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