How to tell if you are being bullied

Anti-Bullying Week is drawing to an end. Here we highlight the warning signs that tell you that you are being bullied at work.

Bullying at work


It’s Anti-Bullying Week and we’ve looked at how to tackle bullying if you are both an employer or an employee being bullied. But how do you know if you are being bullied at work?

Bullying can take many forms. It can be both subtle and blatant. It can be something that occurs over weeks or months or a one-off incident. What is basically boils down to is behaviour that is intended to hurt, threaten or intimidate another person and it can do lasting damage to your confidence and self-esteem.

At work there are many different ways bullying can manifest itself, from constant undermining of a person’s confidence, removal of duties with no objective justification, excessive monitoring, aggressive behaviour, words or shouting, mockery, excluding someone from key information or isolating them, sexually harassing them, spreading malicious rumours about them, refusing reasonable requests for time off, picking on people, undermining their job security with no good reason, blocking promotion or training with no good reason and much, much more.

So what are the signs that you are being bullied at work by your manager?

  • Threatening behaviour, for instance, threatening physical harm you, invading your space or intimidating you, threatening to fire you and so forth.
  • Verbal abuse, such as shouting or swearing at you, either in private or in front of others to humiliate you, making remarks about you behind your back, criticising everything you do, making jokes to make you feel uncomfortable or humiliated.
  • Undermining you through constantly questioning your abilities or ideas, belittling your work or undermining your confidence.
  • Undermining your work by, for instance, making it difficult for you to do your work by changing tasks suddenly or withholding crucial information or criticising your work
  • Excessive monitoring, for example, listening into conversations, opening your post and spying on you.
  • Stopping you from progressing, for instance, by denying you training or development opportunities or promotions and micromanaging you
  • Isolating you socially by, for example, excluding you from outings, social occasions or information.
  • Spreading rumours about you or gossiping about you, your abilities or your appearance to make you look bad.

There are many reasons that bullies pick on people and, certainly at school, the onus seems to teaching the bullied person strategies for standing up to the bullies. That might help the bullied person, but it often lets the bully off the hook and it can sometimes make the bullied person feel that somehow it is their fault that they have been picked on. If you feel you are being bullied, there are practical steps you can take to ensure the bully is held to account.

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