How to Deal with the Workplace Bully

The problem with bullies is that they don’t keep to the schoolyard. Unfortunately, you’ll still encounter these kinds of people in the workplace. However, they won’t come as obviously stereotyped as the thick-shouldered, strong-armed luddites that often pushed you in the playground. Workplace bullies are more cunning and, often, more manipulative.

As you leave the world of university and enter the land of the employed, you may encounter this problem, especially as a newbie in the company. If this is the case or if you are being discriminated against for any reason such as race, sexuality, gender or disability then, according to the Equality Act, your bully is actually committing a crime. The important thing is that you know what to do and how to stop it.


Identifying your Bully

The first step to dealing with your workplace bully is actually identifying that what is happening is bullying. As we’re dealing with adults, rather than children, the lines for bullying are blurred. It’s a sly joke at some work you’ve submitted, construed as banter or prefixed with “no offence but…” as if that does anything to reduce the sting. It’s an overly aggressive manager who keeps putting you down, but they’re just helping you develop, right? That’s just their method? Actually, that’s workplace bullying and you have every right to challenge it.



Attack is the Best Form of Defence

Now we’ve identified the bully, we need to decide the most appropriate way to deal with them. Some people feel totally comfortable approaching their bully and discussing with them in a calm and assertive manner that this behaviour is unacceptable and, like a schoolyard bully, the surprise at the unexpected confrontation should settle them down. However, you should never go at this angry. Go home, cool off, think about what you want to say and speak to them the next day. If tensions are high you could end up having a full blown office argument which would be totally unprofessional and place you in the wrong alongside your bully.


You can be a tell-tale

If the bully is not your boss, you should definitely try speaking to the latter. At school, the mortification of telling the teacher was enough to put you off doing anything. But as we spend, on average, 90,000 hours at work, it’s important that it’s an environment we enjoy. The bully could legitimately lose their job if it continues so they should quiet down if their behaviour is challenged, especially by their employer.

Make sure that, when you discuss this with your boss, you have instances noted that you can actually give as evidence. They will want to know exactly what kind of discrimination it is. It is your employer’s responsibility to make sure bullying does not occur.


Find allies

Allying yourself with your colleagues is also important. People will have noticed if you’re getting bullied and, chances are, you aren’t the only one. Keep an eye out for others experiencing similar abuse and see if they would like to either approach the bully or discuss it with your boss together. Teamwork is key in an office.


HR ready

If the bully, as discussed earlier, is your boss then it might seem like an impossible situation to resolve. You don’t feel ready to discuss it with them directly for fear of only antagonising them further and you can’t exactly rally a coup. So are they any options left?

Yes. Your Human Resources Department deals directly with claims of workplace bullying. In fact, if options one and two don’t appeal to you, you can head straight to HR to address the matter directly. They will then decide how to best deal with the situation for all parties. Depending on how bad the bullying is, this could result in a tribunal and suspension or the bully losing their job.


The aftermath

The bully can’t afford to lose their job, so hopefully they’ll back down once they know you’re serious. However, if the bullying doesn’t stop then neither can you. Keep reporting it and eventually they will learn that you will not back down. Chances are, many of the other employees will be grateful for your defiance as it will make the workplace easier for everyone.


Katie Watson is a guest contributor for Inspiring Interns. Check out her blog at

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