Am I being bullied?

Because workplace bullying is badly understood it is helpful to have a working definition. Below is how we define workplace bullying:

Persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse of power or unfair penal sanctions, which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable, which undermines their self-confidence and which may cause them to suffer stress.

As with harassment, bullying is defined largely by the impact of the behaviour on the recipient, not its intention. Bullying at work can take many forms. The following are just some of the most common ways:

  • Bullies may use terror tactics, open aggression, threats, shouting, abuse, and obscenities towards their target
  • Bullies may subject their target to constant humiliation or ridicule, belittling their efforts, often in front of others
  • Bullies may subject their target to excessive supervision, monitoring everything they do and being excessively critical about minor things
  • Bullies may take the credit for other people's work but never take the blame when things go wrong
  • Bullies may constantly override the person's authority
  • Bullies may remove whole areas of work responsibility from the person, reducing their job to routine tasks that are well below their skills and capabilities
  • Bullies may set the person what they know to be impossible objectives, or constantly change the work remit without telling the person, and then criticise or reprimand the person for not meeting their demands
  • Bullies may ostracise and marginalise their target, dealing with the person only through a third party, excluding the person from discussions, decisions etc
  • Bullies may spread malicious rumours about the individual
  • Bullies may refuse reasonable requests for leave, training etc, or block a person's promotion.

If any of these sorts of things are going on in your workplace, you are perfectly justified to take matters further - they are all examples of behaviour that is totally unacceptable, no matter what the reasons for it are. Maybe it's not happening to you, but you see it going on. The bully might not even realise that they are a bully. But if bullying is allowed to carry on over time it can be very damaging, not only to the victim but also to their colleagues too.