Cross-Functional Learning


Our well-rounded business content is designed for Leaders & Managers to implement change with ease & improve accountability amongst their teams. Here you'll find Articles from thought leaders in their fields, have access to practical Business Templates, learn new skills & expand on skills you already have. Stay informed & proactive...Join Us Today!

Join Now

Dealing With Workplace Bullies: Seven Actions to Protect Yourself AND Others

By Lisa Woods (1485 words)
Posted in Communication Skills on July 31, 2012

There are (11) comments permalink

Add to My Toolkit

We all deal with different, and sometimes difficult, personalities at work.  But what do you do if the personality is a bully?  If you have ever encountered someone who berates you, deliberately excludes you from information, sets you up for failure, mocks you, points out your flaws in public, creates rumors about you at work, or any other deliberate act of negativity toward you…know you are not alone.  Unfortunately, most of us will face at least one workplace bully directed toward us, or someone we know, at some point in our career.  So what can you do to protect yourself, and others, from being bullied at work?


Here Are Seven Actions You Can Take to Protect Yourself AND Others From Workplace Bullies.


ONE – Be reserved when working with someone for the first time.

Bullying often starts silently.  Someone may be very nice to you in order to gain your trust as they gather information about you.  They will then turn on you when they see your vulnerability, using it against you.  If you are aware that this risk exists when you interact with people for the first time, you will stay more reserved and protected.  Always be professional and kind when working with people, but do not let your guard down until you have a continuous flow of interactions with someone who proves to you their intentions and motives are honest.


TWO – Pay attention to how people interact with one another.

Whether it is interaction among peers, managers or employees…you can tell a lot about a person by the consistency, or inconsistency, of their treatment toward others.  When you find individuals that communicate in a consistent and professional manner toward others, proactively work to develop a good rapport with these individuals.  When you find individuals that exhibit inconsistent behavior toward others, keep your interaction limited and strictly on point with getting required work done.


THREE - Establish your professional circle with good people of all levels.

Not just the people you want to be friends with, but people that you can collaborate with, and establish your professional reputation with.  Building a reputation at work is very important to ward off negativity from workplace bullies.  If you are known to be good at your job, a good collaborator, and have a strong professional support system, your vulnerability is reduced.  You should also make an effort to seek out others like you to help them build their reputation as well.  Be sure to include company leadership in your circle, if not your boss, one of his or her colleagues, or someone superior to them in the hierarchy.  Creating a mentor/mentee relationship with these individuals is a good approach.


FOUR – Always stay professional and on point.

If someone tries to bully you, whether it is a boss or co-worker, do not lower yourself to his or her level.  Always take the high road in the discussion and focus the discussion on facts, actions and next steps.  For example: if someone tries to set you up, blaming you for some mistake that has happened because you did not do something that they neglected to tell you about....Focus the dialog on finding a solution to the problem, identifying what went wrong, and trying to work with them to ensure the problem does not happen again.  If they see you are taking the chaos they are creating and trying to bring it back to professionalism and solutions, they will feel a loss of power.  Their power is generated by making you feel chaotic…removing the chaos generates your power.


FIVE – Take responsibility away from bullies.

If you are in a position of power, or in a position of leadership (even without authority), be responsible for fixing the bullying problem in your company.  Do not allow bickering.  Take a breath when someone complains to you about another worker and hear all sides before having any reaction.  If bullies see fair leadership, they will think twice before injecting unfair tactics in the workplace.


SIX – Be vocal about your bully’s behavior.

If you are being bullied, do not let the frustration fester inside you.  Use your professional circle (described in the third point of this article) as your sounding board.  These individuals see your value, and can give you the encouragement you need to know you are not losing your mind.  Be professional, do not use this network to “report” on your bully…instead use them to share your concern about the bully.  You can say things like “I was really shocked by something “John” did today.  If he acted this way toward me, the likelihood of him behaving this way in the future toward others is high, and in my mind unacceptable…have you had any encounters with him that are similar?”  You will probably find out that others are aware of “John” and can offer advice on how to deal with him.  Sometimes just knowing you are not alone can give you the strength you need to keep your professionalism and your head clear.


SEVEN – Know when it is time to seek other employment.

It is never too late to implement the first six actions discussed in this article.  If you are being bullied, these actions are the first steps you can take to make your situation better and give yourself the control you need.  However, if your bully has pushed you to the point of sleepless nights and drained your desire to go to work, then things may have gone too far.  Typically in a work environment where this behavior goes unnoticed, it will most likely go unresolved no matter what you do.  If you have been proactive and nobody is supporting you, it may be time to seek other employment whether it be asking for a new position within your current company or moving to a new company altogether…why would you want to stay in that situation anyway?  Focus on your skills and know that any company that allows workplace bullying is not a place you want to be.  Start fresh and keep these actions in mind as you create new work relationships.


Once you start defending yourself, your bully has won.  Your professionalism, your influence, your reputation and the people you have in your workplace circle, all act as barriers for workplace bullies.  Focus on creating these barriers instead of defending yourself when you are attacked. 


For more information on managing and creating relationships at work, see the following articles:

Dealing with Difficult Personalities at Work

Eight Communication Tips To Gain Respect at Work

Three Steps to Creating Great Mentor/Mentee Relationships

Develop Nine Essential Skills to Lead Without Authority


I hope this perspective is helpful to you in your day-to-day life.  Test out these concepts and share your results with us.  Others can benefit from your experiences.  Good luck!




Written by Lisa WoodsPresident & CEO ManagingAmericans.com

Lisa is a successful entrepreneur, world-class marketing strategist, dynamic business leader & author with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth in the corporate world. Today she provides Management Tools, Do-It-Yourself Training, and Business Assessments for small to mid size companies, Lisa utilizes her experience with integration techniques, organizational and cultural overhauls, financial turnarounds and strategic revitalization to help other companies succeed.  Closing the gap between strategy and hierarchy through the use of effective communication skills, Lisa's techniques successfully develop employees into exceptional leaders, results driven managers and passionate team contributors that collectively exceed objectives.


Do you have a question for Lisa?  Post it in our Executive Leadership Community, she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


Did you find this story informative?  We would like the opportunity to keep you up to date on all of our training articles.  Please register for our newsletter so we can do just that.  

Here are some additional training articles you may be interested in: 

4 Essential Skills for Leaders, Managers & High Potentials

Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: How to Develop Yourself & Your Team 

Lessons Learned Templates & Guide: A Managers Toolkit for Continuous Improvement

Work Efficiency Equation For Managers And High Performers

Overcoming Disconnect Between Middle & Upper Management


At ManagingAmericans.com we encourage members to go in and out of our communities to learn about different areas of business; how to work together, solve problems and improve skills.  Each community details expectations, challenges, success tips, training programs and useful resources. Growing your knowledge base and learning about all areas of business can help you navigate towards success in your career.



Comments (11)

DANIEL QUIAMBAO posted on: July 31, 2012

Bullying is a negative action on the part of one or more other persons. when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways. Bullying can be a serious problem, both in schools and in the workplace. There have even been cases of both kids and adults committing suicide due to bullying and we see the impact of bullying.
To protect ourselves from these are:It is very important to learn self-defense to protect yourself; report all bullying to an authority figure; show minimal reaction to bullying; know what kind of bully you are dealing with; do not make jokes at your own expense to try to prove that there is nothing they can do to hurt your feelings; and take Karate lessons.
Posted by

Kim Rosengren, MBA/TM posted on: August 5, 2012

I think the workplace today is all too filled with bullies. Too many projects and too few people have led to a new culture that is less than positive in many companies. While I find that most bullies are men, I am starting to see women pick up the trait as well. While the article points out several "avoidance" strategies, the reality is that bullies can only be stopped from the top. And far too often, that's where bullying starts. The only real answer is to find a new job, as once a bully finds you vulnerable, he or she will find ways to bully you over and over again.

Philip Stevenson posted on: August 5, 2012

I'm happy I'm in a company where bully is not happening. But in case, I'll encounter one, I know what to do with your post.

Dianna Booher posted on: August 5, 2012

Lisa, I really like your phrasing for the tip on "being vocal about the bully" without "reporting" on him or her. The fine line is being "vocal" without letting this slip into gossip or rumor.

Kevin posted on: November 19, 2012

This is incredible! I love this article. It was to the point, helpful and very true.

Lisa Woods posted on: November 19, 2012

Thanks Kevin,

Glad to hear you found the material helpful. I really appreciate your feedback and participation in our community.

Stanley H. Greene posted on: December 21, 2012

Building one's own self esteem and self confidence is extremely important.

Stéphane Parent posted on: December 26, 2012

You have to be careful with the first suggestion. You do want to build trust with people you have to work with. Holding back might make you less trustworthy.

Amber Harrington posted on: January 2, 2013

A very useful article. I'm glad you posted it.

John Lawrence posted on: January 8, 2013

Bullying can occur to any person at any age. It can happen to a child at school, an adult at work or a teenager online. Two things that most victims of bullies have in common are a fear of the bully and a feeling of hopelessness about the situation. It is possible for injured parties to overcome the fear of bullying to go about their everyday lives free of any anxiety and regain their self-confidence.

o 1 Avoid taking the bullying personally. Many times bullies are acting out against others because they have low self-confidence and are attempting to make themselves feel better by putting others down.

o 2 Speak to a friend, family member, parent or co-worker about the bullying. You might find that other people are being bullied as well. Ask for help confronting the bully or for support with the situation.

John Lawrence posted on: January 8, 2013

o 3 Write down your experiences with the bully. Get your thoughts and feelings out on paper and read them back to yourself. Share these thoughts with a friend, and the two of you can work through the feelings of fear.

o 4 Speak to a licensed therapist or a trusted spiritual adviser about the fear of bullying. He or she will be able to give you an outside opinion about the situation.

o 5 Confront the bully. If you fear the bully will harm you physically, bring along several friends. If you have a child that is dealing with a bully, schedule an appointment with the bully and his parents. Just speaking your mind to the bully will allow you to get back your power.

Leave a comment

Not a robot?