How to handle bullying at work

No matter your age, bullying can be hurtful and dangerous to your mental health. If you’re among the estimated 60 million Americans affected by bullying in the workplace, here are ways to help manage the situation and its effect on your overall well-being.

No matter our age, bullying can be hurtful and dangerous to our mental health. While the term “bullying” generally applies to young children and teenagers, the government website defines bullying among adults as the repeated use of aggressive behavior or use of power to threaten or intimidate. This type of behavior most commonly occurs in the workplace. In fact, the issue is so prevalent that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has conducted studies on the matter. There are also organizations such as the Workplace Bullying Institute that are dedicated to understanding and countering the behavior.

Data published by the Workplace Bullying Institute reports startling statistics about workplace bullying among Americans, including:

  • 19% are bullied; another 19% witness the behavior
  • 61% are aware of such abusive behavior
  • 61% of bullies are bosses/authoritative figures
  • 70% of perpetrators are men; 60% of targets are women
  • 40% of targets suffer adverse health effects
  • Hispanics are bullied more than workers of other races

“Victims of workplace bullying often feel helpless, which makes overcoming the harassment even more difficult,” said Kathy Dutridge, LPC, a behavioral health clinician at Valleywise Health. “When your livelihood is on the line, you may be more hesitant to take action.”

Data suggests that workplace bullying can have major emotional and physical effects, leaving a person to question his or her abilities, causing unbearable stress, and even resulting in depression.

If you’re among the estimated 60 million Americans affected by bullying in the workplace, whether it’s by a colleague or a boss, there are ways to help manage the situation and its effect on your overall well-being.


How to Deal With Bullying at Work

  1. Be assertive. Point out to the bully that you are aware of his/her bullying behaviors, using specific examples that highlight the abusive actions.
  2. Set boundaries. Explain to the bully that he/she is no longer allowed to enter your personal workspace (i.e. cubicle, office, etc.).
  3. Remain calm, refuse to argue, and remember not to take it personally. A bully’s behavior and need to intimidate or otherwise exert power says more about their own sense of self worth than it does about you and your role as an employee/colleague.
  4. Speak up. Tell your manager or human resources officer of the situation, being sure to provide specific examples of the aggressive behavior without focusing on blame.
  5. Know your rights. The S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission outlines employer responsibilities related to harassment and worker rights. Employers that refuse to address or attempt to resolve workplace bullying may be liable.

Don’t be afraid to get help. A primary care provider at Valleywise Health can connect you with the right resources for your unique situation. Call 1-833-VLLYWSE (855-9973) to make an appointment today.

About the Author

Kathy Dutridge, MA, LPC, CRC - Behavioral Health

Kathy Dutridge is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Behavioral Health Clinician at Valleywise Health. Kathy is a former Maricopa County Crisis Line supervisor who assisted families in domestic violence situations in getting to safety. Currently, Kathy is passionate about providing professional counseling services at Valleywise Health.

Read more posts by Kathy Dutridge, MA, LPC, CRC  Browse all topics

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