It is uncommon for everyone in a workplace setting to be good friends most of
the time. It’s also inevitable that you will experience disagreements and
arguments with colleagues. Sometimes you may also have to deal with a difficult
Most of us have the occasional bad day at work where it feels like everyone is
against us. But if you or a colleague are being repeatedly ridiculed, targeted or
openly harassed by another member of staff, the situation goes beyond a
disagreement and becomes workplace bullying.
What is workplace bullying?
Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a
worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety. Its quite
normal not to take heed of the situation when it’s happening.
Some examples of workplace bullying include:
- Abusive or offensive language or comments
- Aggressive and intimidating behavior
- Belittling or humiliating comments
- Practical jokes or initiation
- Unjustified criticism or complaints.
Some victims are known to blame themselves in the early stages of the bullying
experience. And as a result they believe they need to work harder to reduce the
behaviour of the bully toward them. However this tends to give the bully more
ammo and power to control the victim further.
Affects of workplace bullying on a victim
Workplace bullying can be harmful to the person experiencing it and to those
who witness it, although the effects will vary depending on individual
characteristics as well as the situation and may include one or more of the
- Distress, anxiety, panic attacks or sleep disturbance
- Physical illness, for example muscular tension, headaches, fatigue and
- Reduced work performance, concentration and decision making ability
- Loss of self-esteem and self-confidence
- Feelings of isolation
- Deteriorating relationships with colleagues, family and friends
- Depression, and
- Thoughts of suicide.
Reasons for Bullying in the workplace
There is no strict definition on who becomes a bully and who becomes a victim.
Sometimes a bully doesn’t realise they’re displaying bullying behaviour toward
their colleagues. On the other hand some bullies know exactly what they’re
doing. But it’s more helpful to understand the situations and circumstances in
which the bullying behaviours occur.
Some people feel their position could be in jeopardy from another employee and
so they bully as a means of diverting attention away from their own
shortcomings. In this way they also exhibit a lack of personal responsibility for
their own performance. Also if the workplace is based on a competitive reward
system then be sure that bullying will be a natural manifestation in this type of
Some Ways to Manage Workplace Bullying
Sadly there are so many victims of bullying who choose to leave instead of
tackling the situation head on. Whether your working in a small or large
company that doesn’t have any clear bullying policies will definitely influence
your decision to leave and avoid the continued stress of addressing the problem.
If you feel you are being bullied at work, here are some steps to help you before
things get too much.
1. Take yourself and the situation seriously.
Educate yourself of what workplace bullying is. Check out the Safe Work
Australia website and read all the information on workplace bullying. Once
you’ve determined that bullying is taking place, be prepared to take action. Don’t
ever second-guess yourself or believe that it’s your fault or something to do with
your own work performance issues. Remember you have rights in your
2. Be assertive with the bully.
This can be quite difficult at first especially if the bully is unaware of their
behaviour. However if it is covert and deliberate then be straight up requesting
they cease this type of behaviour toward you.
3. Keep a diary or journal of the situation that includes your feelings and
The more prepared you are to bring the bully to account for their actions the
better. This can also help in preventing things from getting too personal when it
comes time to tell someone.
4. Communicate your concerns to someone you can trust
If there’s a colleague who you feel you can trust then approach them and tell
them about your concerns. Take your journal with you and show them the
evidence you’ve gathered. If you’re experiencing bullying from your Manager
then approach someone higher up. Call your union delegate too.
5. Consider resigning from your workplace
If no action is taken from the higher ups then seriously consider leaving that
place of work. Life is too short to be stressed at work. Know that Karma will soon
catch up with those who mistreated you. The universe has a way of seeing things
through like this. Don’t ever blame yourself or judge yourself as a failure. The
situation is out of your control. Just move on with your life.
There are certain characteristics in victims that bullies seem to target. A person
who is shy and self-conscious with low self-esteem can be a potential target.
However, on the other end of spectrum, someone who is competent, popular or
successful can also be a target. Workplace bullying is never the fault of the victim
and only thrives in an environment that turns a blind eye to it. Don’t ever blame
yourself and take immediate action to nip it in the bud.