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What to Do About Workplace Bullying (And How to Prevent It)


Do you know the signs of workplace bullying?


Can you believe that approximately 2 out of every 5 people have been bullied at work? (1)

About 50 percent of those bullied have had stress-related, health problems as a result.

Workplace bullying—whether verbal, psychological, physical, or online—can be very destructive for any culture. It’s extremely damaging to morale, productivity, safety, and the health and well-being of all your workers…not just the ones involved with the bullying! (1)

One thing is for sure: this kind of treatment is not acceptable, not deserved, and any kind of behavior that resembles bullying shouldn’t be happening in any work environment.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the signs of workplace bullying, and what you can do to work against it becoming an issue in your company.

Do You Know the Signs of Workplace Bullying?

What is workplace bullying? It can take many forms, but according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, workplace bullying is any kind of treatment that is repetitive and abusive in nature. That can be threatening, humiliating, intimidating, or any combination of those. It can also include forms of verbal abuse, in some cases.

It’s a kind of mistreatment that can not only can impact someone’s health, but it can also prevent them from getting work done. Obviously, that’s a significant issue!

You may be surprised to learn who is a workplace bully.

It’s not necessarily someone who yells or intimidates or humiliates; that’s the kind of bully we think of in most cases, but it doesn’t have to look like that. Keep in mind that sometimes the signs of bullying are not that “loud.” Bullying can be more discreet, and can be more difficult to identify than just someone who is perceived as a “jerk.”

Do You Know Someone Being Bullied at Work Today?

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, here are examples of experiences at work that could suggest you, or someone you know, is being bullied:

  •      Impromptu meetings are held where the sole point of the meeting is to humiliate someone
  •      The work is never good enough for the boss
  •      People have been told to stop talking or to “ignore” someone else
  •      People feel it is okay to scream or yell in someone’s face
  •      HR or coworkers agree the person is a problem, but no one ever does anything about it
  •      Your request to change to another boss/division is denied….with no reason
  •      When confronting the tormentor to stop the abusive conduct, you/someone else is accused of harassment or you/someone else is ignored

Sadly, often times the person who is being tormented is being targeted because they are perceived as a threat of some kind. The Workplace Bullying Institute’s research on the so-called “targets” of bullying saw that often times, the targets are a company veteran and/or the most skilled person in the workgroup (2).

And what if you feel YOU are the one being bullied? According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, here are a few signs you may be bullied at work:

  •      You almost feel sick or do feel sick before going to work
  •      Your family or loved ones think you are obsessed with work at home
  •      You have changes in health like blood pressure or other recent changes in health
  •      Paid time off feels like it is for mental health breaks
  •      You feel ashamed about what is happening at work, so much so that you don’t tell your partner about the interactions you are having with that person
  •      You start to believe that you were the one that provoked the cruelty (2, 3, 4)

How to Prevent Workplace Bullying

Many HR and safety managers, understandably want to prevent workplace bullying. They also want to be able to put an end to it if they suspect it may be an issue already.

The answer to how this can be done: company culture. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do to shut it down.

1. Take steps to make sure workers know what workplace bullying is.

If it’s identifiable behavior, that means it can be appropriately called out. Don’t be blinded by high performers or the person who is doing well in their job; believe it or not, these people can still be bullies. Get clear on what is—and what is not—acceptable behavior in your company.

2. Train your people on how to shut it down, on the spot.

Do workers know how they can respond to a bully if they deal with one, directly or indirectly? And do they just let this mistreatment happen without addressing it, right then and there, if they witness it? Don’t assume all your staff know the right way to deal with someone, in-the-moment, who may be toxic (3, 4).

Also be sure employees feel equipped and empowered enough to say something if they see it happening. That may require ongoing training, which can be well worth the investment. Give workers some sort of space or tool that can allow them to report what they are seeing.

3. Create a script to manage any bullying incidents.

If you are going to sit down and have a conversation with someone you suspect may be a bully, have a script readily available to help address the issue. You want to be as prepared as possible to put an end to any bad behavior.

Mark Murphy, a Forbes Contributor, suggests the following four-part script:

  •      Establish a candid context
  •      Describe the recent issue
  •      Share how that is going to change/needs to change (based on the policies of the company)
  •      Offer a choice to change behavior based on that HR policy (3)

This gives someone the option to adapt their behavior and to stop the mistreatment of others. If they come up with excuses or are unwilling to commit to change, do what it takes to remove them from the environment.

4. Dig for the full story.

Last, have metrics in place that can help tell the whole story about the workplace climate. Identifying and knowing about bullying is part of the solution, but you also want to know why it’s really happening—so you can fix that issue, too.

That’s where a platform like iReportSource can be helpful so you can see unbiased, actionable data points and stats that tell you more about the whole story.

What Else to Know About Workplace Bullying

A company’s culture is always in flux, and you’re never going to be completely immune to any and all bullying. But despite how a company culture is always going to be evolving, you can still do your best to create a stable environment where norms, values, and acceptable behavior is clear (1).

Learn More about iReportSource’s Dashboard

Our analytics dashboard will show you everything you need to be completely confident: from ROI, cost savings, the number of safety trainings completed and much more about the ongoing state of your culture—and that is all with the click of a button.

Are you ready to use data for better decision-making in your company? Learn more today.



A special thanks to iReportSource for sharing their insights on safety in the workplace. For more information on iReportSource, contact Christi Brown at or 513-549-3459. iReportSource allows you to avoid complacency and manage risk, all while helping you to reinforce behavior-based safety practices.

strategic HR inc. understands your concerns with the well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety and security to cover any need you may have from analyzing your safety programs to making sure you are OSHA compliant to proactively ensuring employee wellness. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page for more information on any of these services.