Tag Archives: Workplace Bullying


What is bullying in the workplace and how can we prevent it?

We’ve all witnessed or experienced bullying at some point or another – in the playground, at the family dinner table, in a relationship etc. While usually bullying is thought to take place between children, it’s actually very prevalent in all aspects of society and between all different group dynamics. A huge place for bullies to migrate and act is actually in your everyday workplace. Let’s take a look at what bullying is, why it happens, and how we can prevent it.

What is bullying?

First, let’s consider what bullying actually is. By definition, to bully someone is to seek to harm, offend, intimidate, or coerce an individual in some form or another. This can be done in numerous different ways such as name calling, blackmailing or physical violence. The act of bullying usually follows a repetitive nature and is the constant harassment of somebody without remorse.


What is bullying in the workplace?

To bully someone in the workplace entails hurting or isolating an individual from the rest of the workforce and is done all too often by both employers and employees alike. Often people in positions of power use this as an excuse to degrade, take advantage of and belittle those that work for them. Bullying in the workplace is also seen between members of staff with the same credentials, in which one employee targets and takes advantage of the other.

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What forms can bullying take place in?

In day-to-day life, bullying can take place in many forms. A bully may be aggressive, rude and derogatory to someone for no reason. If you’re being bullied you may be being shouted at or talked down to, touched in an unwanted manner, or coerced into doing something you don’t really want to do. Bullies will use offensive language to the person they’re bullying such as name calling or swearing. They may also tease or embarrass you for their own amusement and joke at your expense in front of others. The sole goal of a bully is to make somebody feel bad about themselves so they can feel better.

Specifically, in the workplace, bullying may look like interrupting an individual’s work, blaming someone for something that went wrong or belittling somebody’s efforts. Someone may be bullying you if they’re taking credit for your hard work and they may be isolating you from the rest of the team if they leave you out, talk down to you, or make unwarranted jokes at your expense.

If you are being bullied by a colleague, you may:

  • Be relentlessly teased or embarrassed in front of other colleagues.
  • Have your work belittled and insulted.
  • Be interrupted constantly so you can’t complete tasks.
  • Have your ideas disparaged.
  • Be discredited behind your back.
  • Be verbally abused.
  • Be blamed for errors.

If you are being bullied by an employer, you may:

  • Be given difficult tasks in a short time frame.
  • Be made to work more and later than other employees.
  • Get in trouble for minor things that other employees don’t get called up for.
  • Be ignored or refused help.
  • Be refused time off.
  • Have your individual needs put behind everybody else’s in the workforce.
  • Be verbally abused.
  • Be blamed for errors.
Anti Bullying and Bullying Prevention Course

Why do people bully others?

A lot more of us have probably bullied someone in some form or another then we care to admit. This happens for numerous reasons but the root cause of bullying someone usually stems from some kind of insecurity and desire to feel power. Bullies will often receive a sense of power and pride in bullying someone else. This is because belittling someone often makes a bully feel stronger. Bullying stems from the need to feel like you’re in control, which a bully may be lacking in other aspects of their lives.

Remember that while what bullies do is horrific, they’re actually just acting out and projecting their own fears and insecurities. Often, a bully may need just as much help as the person being bullied.

How can bullying affect an individual and how can it affect a work environment?

Bullying someone in a work environment can have a massive impact on somebody’s work performance and their relationships with other employees. However most importantly, it can take a massive toll on their mental health. If someone is being bullied in a work environment, they may feel isolated and hopeless. Being bullied is never a good experience but being bullied in a professional space is particularly hurtful. It makes it incredibly hard to focus on the work at hand and makes it hard to maintain professionalism. A bullied employee may not want to speak out in fear of getting in trouble themselves or causing tension amongst the rest of the workforce.

Ongoing bullying can cause a serious strain on your mental health, especially if you’ve yet to find the courage to speak up. If you’re dealing with the stress that being bullied can cause, it’s important that you look after your mental well-being. If you’re not ready to speak up and report the bully, perhaps simply talking to somebody you trust can lift the weight of your shoulder and help put things in perspective. This will potentially share your burden and they may be able to advise you and give you the courage to speak up.

How can you prevent workplace bullying?

To prevent bullying in the workplace, remember to always treat those around you with kindness and respect. Preventing workplace harassment is easy if you remember to maintain professionalism and always treat others in a considerate manner. This will ensure a stress-free environment that will help enhance your work ethic. If you happen to witness workplace bullying, speak up to put a stop to it. Doing so will prevent hostility from festering and will stop the same thing from happening in private or to somebody else. You should go directly to someone of authority and allow them to take action instead of getting involved yourself. A superior will be able to address the situation from a higher position and ensure it doesn’t continue.

What should you do if you’re experiencing workplace bullying or have witnessed it happen to somebody else?

Being bullied or seeing someone else be bullied isn’t a nice thing to experience but it can be prevented, helped, and stopped. Taking action against a bully can save an individual and potentially prevent the same hostile treatment from happening to somebody else. If you yourself are being bullied in any form, first realize that you are not to blame. The actions of your bully are their own and you are not responsible for them. Doing this will hopefully give you the courage you need to speak up and reach out for help.

When you’re ready, reach out and talk to somebody else in your workplace. This may be a colleague you trust or someone from higher up. It’s probably more helpful to you to reach out to a manager or someone in a position of authority as they’ll be able to directly take action against the bully. If you’re unfortunate enough to experience bullying from an immediate manager, you should report it to the next manager available. This could be someone in a different department, your bosses’ boss, or potentially take the issue to HR.

What will happen once you’ve reported an incident of bullying?

Once you’ve reported an incident of bullying to a superior it’s up to them to take action and then put an end to it. In serious incidents, bullying may be taken above your superior and to HR. Otherwise your superior may be able to tackle the issue themselves sensitively and between the parties involved. Your claim will be investigated impartially, and the evidence will be assessed to see whether it needs taking further. If you have provable bases to your claim, the offending party will be disciplined accordingly, and steps will then be taken to reestablish a healthy work environment. This may include dismissal of the offending party, team restructuring and a stronger emphasis on appropriate workplace behavior.

How should we be acting in the workplace?

Remember that when you’re at work you’re in a professional environment working with other professionals. No matter how laid back or friendly a workforce can be, you should always maintain professionalism to a certain degree. This will prevent personal lives and affairs being dragged into the office. This means treating those around you with respect and gratitude. Consider your own job role and theirs when talking to other employees and remember that you’re being paid to be there and carry out some kind of service. It’s a privilege for you to be working.

If you have bullied or are bullying someone, remember that doing so is a punishable offence and may cost you your own job. Creating a hostile environment is inexcusable and serious and permanent action may take place as a result of doing so.

If bullying has reared its ugly head in your workplace, it might be time to nip it in the bud fast. We encourage you to run our online Anti Bullying & Bullying Prevention Course. Find out more here https://thewmhionline.com/course/anti-bullying-and-bullying-prevention-course/

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter Diaz profile

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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5 More Subtle Signs of Workplace Bullying

You may not think of your office as a place where bullying occurs, but believe it or not, this kind of interpersonal conflict happens in places other than just the schoolyard.

In fact,

research has shown that as many as 1 in 4 people report that they have experienced workplace bullying firsthand.

Unfortunately, workplace bullying often goes under the radar. Why? First of all, it’s not always as obvious as the overt name-calling, shoving, and teasing that we have come to associate with made-for-TV bullies. Secondly, bullying can be embarrassing: a team member who is being bullied may not want to talk about it for fear of looking weak. He or she may also feel pressure to avoid ‘dobbing in’ a coworker, or becoming the target of the bully if they step in on someone’s behalf.

But workplace bullying can and should be addressed by managers in any business or company. In the work environment, bullying tends to be a long, slow, and progressive process, whereby the perpetrator emotionally and psychologically manipulates his or her target over time. This can lead to serious problems with an overall workplace environment and may even contribute to lost productivity, increased errors, and other issues that are common with a distracted and unhappy team member (not to mention a worst-case scenario in which companies are held legally liable for failing to protect an employee against bullying).

Are you a psychologically safe manager? Take the self-assessment to find out.

WMHI Blog – 5 More Subtle Signs of Workplace Bullying

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So, the first step in putting an end to workplace bullying in your company is to learn how to tell if, when, and where it’s happening. Here are 5 subtle signals that your workplace environment may be home to some bullying:

  1. Frequent use of the blame game.

Is there a person on your team who seems to always have an excuse for his or her performance? Does he or she frequently point fingers at someone else, using another person as a scapegoat? Responsibility has to lie somewhere: if someone is unwilling to take personal responsibility for their own actions or inactions, then chances are they’re attempting to unfairly shift that responsibility to someone else.

  1. Minimising the thoughts, contributions, and feelings of others.

Having a patronising attitude toward someone is a subtle way of putting that person down and making him or her feel victimised. A team member who appears to make fun of, minimise, undermine, or discredit someone’s ideas or needs (especially on a consistent basis) could be bullying. They maylaugh derisively at someone’s thoughts or ideas; or physically disengage in communication by turning away and changing topic drastically.

  1. Deceit and dishonesty.

We all tell white lies from time to time. But if a person has a pattern of frequently lying, raising false hopes, or saying they’ll do something and then failing to follow through, then this could be a sign that he or she is trying to take advantage of the people around him or her.

  1. Intentional isolation by way of ignoring or excluding someone.

A sensation of “us versus them” can be seriously detrimental to the health and unity of a company. Team members may achieve this by purposefully not inviting someone to a work event or failing to include them in pertinent discussions, meetings, or projects. Purposefully underusing a team member or persistently delegating undesirable tasks to him or her (especially if they fall within many people’s job descriptions) can also be seen as an attempt for separation.

An example of this is, ‘ghosting’, where the bully will ignore a team member’s attempts to communicate for legitimate work reasons, while they acknowledge other people’s communication that they consider more important. While this practice is, unfortunately, widely tolerated in Australia, it is, nonetheless, damaging.

  1. Excessive flattery.

Going overboard on compliments and flattery is disingenuous at best; at worst itcan be a form of manipulation, persuading the target to check for the flatterer’s approval on any decisions or action. It can also be used as a prelude to more overt bullying, encouraging a person let their guard down, therefore becoming easier to manipulate.

The best bullies tend to be very smooth operators, able to hide their bullying well, and will leave just enough wiggle room to claim their good intentions are being misconstrued, in the event they’re called out. The best defense against bullies is education and awareness.  When people are aware of the signs, it becomes harder for the bully to operate freely.

Keep in mind that workplace bullying can happen at any level and in any direction within your company. Everyone, from senior level executives all the way to the newest team members should be held to the same standards that are necessary to create a positive and healthy work environment.

To your mental health,

– Peter Diaz

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Am I Leading or Bullying?

We know the script. Hard ass movie general breaks all the rules, saves world, emerges a hero. Visionary CEO fires people if they can’t describe the value they add to the company within the space of a lift ride, creates fanatical product following, investors rejoice. Political leader promises to ‘drain swamp’, lies repeatedly, maintains multiple conflicts of interest, but that’s ok because we need a guy who’s going to shake things up.

But what lies beneath the gloss and spin of these stories? Does the need to ‘make big change’ excuse treating people with less respect than they deserve? Is it in fact required?

A strong leader recognises that every one of their people are different; they apply that in their interactions with them, and are respected for it. A bully, by contrast, intimidates, threatens and singles out employees. They are feared – not respected – and there is a big difference.

Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager who built the club into one of the true commercial juggernauts of our time over an unparalleled 26-year reign, and who has advised the likes of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (and will be quoted more than once in this post) sums this up perfectly:

“You can’t aspire to be loved, because that isn’t going to happen, nor do you want people to be frightened of you. Stay somewhere in the middle and have them respect and trust and see you as fair.”

So, what makes a strong leader? How can he or she learn who their employees are, how to lead them, motivate them and keep them on course without sacrificing the three pillars of respect, trust and fairness?

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The answers to these questions are slightly more complex. A strong leader observes his or her people and learns about what kind of person they are: What are their habits? How do they express enthusiasm? And if their habits break or their enthusiasm dips, how can you help them get back to their best? This is the essence of leadership: managing people as individuals, and recognising that what works for one person does not necessarily work for another.

Secondly, a strong leader positively reinforces their people. To again quote Sir Alex:

“No one likes to be criticised. Few people get better with criticism; most respond to encouragement instead. For a player – for any human being – there is nothing better than hearing ‘well done.’”

And thirdly, a strong leader never holds a grudge. If performance or behaviour dips outside the bounds, the issue is addressed promptly and that is the end of it. People should never be made to feel uncomfortable in their workplace, and having a lengthy punishment hanging over them does not allow them that comfort and it ultimately shatters the pillars of respect, trust and fairness that a strong leader builds his or her foundations on.

So, if that is a strong leader, what makes a bully?

Workplace bullying is verbal, physical, social or psychological abuse by anyone in the workplace on another team member. For a manager, this means while they can reprimand, demote or terminate a staff member’s employment, they cannot do anything that could be viewed as abuse. This includes:

  • Intimidation
  • Making a staff member feel less important and undervalued
  • Giving pointless tasks to staff that has nothing to do with their job or tasks that are impossible for the staff member to complete
  • Deliberately changing rostered hours or work schedule to make life difficult
  • Withholding information pertinent for a task to be completed properly
  • Forcing a staff member to be excluded from their team mates or taking part in activities that relates to their work
  • Playing mind games or other types of psychological harassment

Managers who do this are not strong leaders. They are bullies.

And finally, what makes a victim? A victim of workplace bullying is not always an easy spot. However, there are signs, that if noticed should set off alarm bells in the mind of their employer. These include:

  • If they are less active or successful at work
  • If they are less confident in themselves or their work
  • Feel scared, stressed, anxious or depressed
  • Their lives outside of work are affected by their work
  • Wanting to stay away from work
  • Feeling they can’t trust their employer or the people they work with
  • Have physical signs of stress like headaches, backaches and sleep problems

It is important to note that bullying does not always come from the leaders in the workplace, it can come from anywhere in the business. A strong leader recognises and acts upon this swiftly and accordingly, because a happy and harmonious workplace is a successful workplace.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Peter Diaz on:
Peter Diaz on Face Book Peter Diaz on LinkedIn