There are many elements that make up the perfect job. Exciting and engaging tasks, a comfortable office, career progression and fulfillment and, of course, having a brilliant team around you. We often spend more time with the people that we work with than we do with our own friends and family, so getting on well with our colleagues and building strong professional connections is vital. While a good team can make your work life a true pleasure, one bad relationship can tarnish everything, which is why bullying in the workplace requires a zero-tolerance approach. 

Workplace bullying is rife throughout multiple business sectors and, while childish, unprofessional and unnecessary, it is an issue that many people will encounter at some point throughout their career, either directly or indirectly. Cases can range from minor grievances that are settled quickly to more serious prolonged campaigns causing mental health problems, resulting in employees leaving hard-earned positions and derailing their careers. 

Whether serious or seemingly minor, eradicating workplace bullying is something that all companies should be committed to. Identifying the actions, determining the cause and acting in a sensible way to halt the behavior are the most important things employees and employers can do. The average person will spend over 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime, so it’s up to all of us to ensure that time is well, and happily, spent. 


What is workplace bullying? 

When talking about workplace bullying, we are covering a huge range of topics. Bullying takes place when one individual is targeted by another and actions are taken against them in a negative way. Bullying can be obvious and display itself in anger, aggression, raised voices and ultimately the embarrassment of the person being bullied. Blatant rudeness and dismissal of someone’s thoughts, opinions or feelings are clear signs to look out for. 

However, workplace bullying can be far more subtle than that, and leave people suffering alone and in silence. Bullies are often calculating individuals who will focus on almost undetectable micro-aggressions so as to not get caught. Some examples of workplace bullying that can often go unnoticed under the guise of professionalism include:

  • Unfair or unbalanced treatment between colleagues
  • Regularly rejecting someone’s ideas or contributions
  • Overloading one individual with work 
  • Denying someone a promotion 

Sometimes the bullying can take on an even more childish approach and people can find themselves left out of conversations, excluded from group activities or even learn about malicious rumors that have been spread. Whatever form bullying takes, there is no excuse. Whether it is happening to you or a colleague, looking out for the key signs is the first step towards fixing the problem. 


Why do workplace bullies do it?

The question of why bullies decide to bully people is one that has been debated for years. From the schoolyard to corporate offices in big cities across the world, many psychologists question the root causes. In the case of bullying the workplace, it is important to take into account the office hierarchy. Often bullying tactics are used to exert existing power or to gain power that the bully feels like they are lacking. 

As in most cases of bullying, the blame lies with the person doing the bullying and not the victim. There could be a huge variety of reasons that someone feels the need to bully:

  • Maybe they were bullied as a child
  • Maybe they have come from an educational environment where aggression is common
  • Maybe they have come from another role where rudeness is typical
  • Maybe they are taking out frustrations from other parts of their life at work 


Why are you being bullied at work?

It is often hard to work out exactly why one person is bullied in a workplace over another. However, there are some stereotypical reasons that a target might be selected: 

  • Being new to a company and failing to fit in with a pre-existing dynamic
  • A shift in office politics caused by promotions or team movement that upsets the status quo
  • Simple jealousy 

In a competitive workspace, jealousy of others receiving praise, promotions or any other advantages due to hard work can often trigger bullying behavior in those who feel themselves to have been overlooked. It is important to remember that bullying is a one-sided action and very different to any other kind of workplace conflict between two people. If you are doing nothing wrong, and the negative, misery-inducing behavior continues, it is clear to see that the problem does not lie with you but with others. 


What can you do?

The first and most important thing to do is talk. Whether within your own organization to a trusted colleague or to a friend outside of work, ensure other people know what is going on and get their advice. You may even discover shared experiences amongst your peers. Depending on the situation, talking to your bully directly about their actions and the way you are feeling may also be an option, there’s a chance they could be unaware of the hurt they are causing. 

If neither of these options works, talking to your manager or HR department is the next logical step. Ensure you are keeping a note of all instances of bullying in order to explain the situation clearly and thoroughly to them. Most importantly stay calm and don’t be afraid, remember this is not your fault. If all else fails, it could be time to move on and accept that the environment is not the place for you, and whenever you do decide to search for your next role, be sure to download our resume template or take one of our online courses to discover the career that’s the perfect fit for you.

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