Health Advocate Blog

Tackling Bullies in the Office

Contrary to popular belief, bullying is not limited to taking a classmate’s lunch money or pushing another student down at recess. Bullying represents a variety of behaviors, including physical aggression; verbal aggression; emotional aggression, such as spreading rumors or hurtful gossip; sexual aggression; and cyberbullying.

Bullying is not isolated to school hallways or playgrounds.  An alarming 35 percent of adults have been bullied or are currently experiencing bullying in the workplace, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute.

As part of National Bullying Prevention Month, Health Advocate is pleased to share some tips and resources that can help you confront bullying that happens at work.

Bullying in the workplace

Bullying in the office, whether it’s by a peer or a boss, can create a hostile work environment.  And many victims keep it a secret because they are afraid that if they tell someone, they’ll lose their jobs. Unlike playground bullies who often use their fists to scare victims, workplace bullies generally use words to intimidate.

Any of the following behaviors can be regarded as bullying, including:

  • Verbal threats/written threats via email
  • Being humiliated in meetings among peers
  • Criticism that is undeserved
  • Exclusion from meetings or communication relevant to your job

Dealing with a workplace bully can be difficult and often causes work productivity to suffer.  It can cost a single business $83,000 a year as a result of absenteeism and stress-related issues, says Civility Partners LLC.

It’s important that victims take steps to stop the bullying.  Whether it’s a peer or supervisor causing a hostile work environment, the victim needs to take action.  If you feel you are a victim of a bully in the office, here are some steps you can take:  

  • If you have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) through your employer, they can help you. Many people are uncomfortable bringing up workplace bullying to other people in the office, so an objective third party—like an EAP—who is an expert in handling these kinds of situations can be helpful to you.
  • Contact Human Resources. You don’t have to tell HR the name of the bully. You can explain that someone in the department has been bullying you repeatedly. It’s important to have this information on file as proof in case of retaliation.
  • Consider telling the bully how you feel.  Stay as calm as possible when confronting the bully. It’s best not to yell or threaten. Often bullies are looking for this type of behavior because it will encourage them to come back for more.
  • Be confident around the bully; don’t feel intimidated or let the bully make you feel bad about yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to be yourself around your other colleagues. Keep your relationships with your workplace friends. 

Bullying can cause undue stress, so if you’re being bullied it’s important to resolve the problem quickly. If you have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) such as the Health Advocate EAP+Work/Life service through your workplace, call to speak to a Licensed Professional Counselor and/or a work/life specialist.  They are trained to help you handle issues like bullying, workplace conflicts, and the stress that these issues can cause.