Bullying — Not Just on the Playground

When you think of bullying, you probably think of that mean little kid in third grade that harassed children on the playground. But bullying is a serious problem in adult life as well, especially in the workplace.

Workplace bullying is a tricky issue because it’s often more difficult to detect in an office environment where hierarchies already exist based on job titles. Adults are capable of many more manipulative bullying techniques than a third grader. When does a boss go too far? Where do you draw the line?

In reality, anybody can be a bully — not just the people with power. Also, 60% of all bullies are men but women are more often victims of bullying from female bullies (71%) than from male bullies (46%). According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), 31% of all bullying is men-on-men, and 29% is women on women.

How do you know there’s bullying in the office? WBI describes bullying as “a systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction that jeopardizes your health, your career, the job you once loved.” Bullying involves consistent verbal abuse, offensive behaviors that are intimidating or humiliating, and sabotage that interferes with work.

A recent study by Hershcovis and Barling shows that bullying can have more of a negative impact on a company than can sexual harassment. Unlike bullying, sexual harassment is illegal, so victims may be less likely to blame themselves and more willing to blame the offender. And bullying doesn’t only impact the victim — it can change the atmosphere of the entire office through reduced employee productivity and lowered morale, higher turnover and absenteeism, and increased compensation claims.

What do you do if you or someone you know is being bullied? WBI offers three steps: first, name the problem and recognize that you are a victim. Next, take some time off to recoup and gain control over your physical and emotional self. Also take this time to research, gather evidence about the bullying, and assess your options. Finally, expose the bully. For more information on workplace bullying, check out: http://www.workplacebullying.org/

Have you had to deal with a bully? Do you think you’ve ever been one yourself? Do you have any suggestions about how to handle bullying in the workplace? Sign the petition to end workplace bullying and protect employers’ rights.

Also, check out the web documentary, “There Oughta Be a Law” by award winning documentary filmmaker Beverly Peterson.


Emily J
Emily Jabout a year ago

Only thing that stopped a bully in my old workplace was when employees backed each other up and confronted the bully together. This wasn't easy because we had to find enough people who weren't afraid of a confrontation and most of the department lived in fear of being victimised next and wouldn't stand up to the creature. It was so worth it though.

Thomas S.
9 years ago

I hardly blame you, Debbie. For the most part, I like animals better than people

Debbie Z.
Debra Z9 years ago

I am a victim of bullying from several preschools and school districts where I have worked over the years. These incidents have caused me both physical and emotional pain. It is for this reason (in addition to my love of dogs) that I am leaving the teaching profession and working toward becoming a certified dog obedience trainer.

Sandra White
Sandra White9 years ago

I don't know if it needs to be another law or not, but it needs to be part of accountability in the work place and needs to be addresses and reported without any retaliation for those reporting. Empowerment classes making it o.k. to come forward or to stand up....will change what happens. Social change and changing the staus quo is very powerful and one person at a time.

R Bedford9 years ago

No one thinks bullying is something new. Just like child molestation, it's been going on since the beginning of time and is only now being acknowledged as a problem. I heard that in the old days if you were raped by an uncle, family friend, father, priest or whoever you just didn't tell anyone and if you did their advice to you was to never tell anyone. I believe these people then blamed themselves and self-hated over it. So wrong and sad.

Heather A.
Heather A9 years ago

It saddens me to hear that, after all the bullying I put up with in school, I get to look forward to even more of it in the workplace. On the other hand, at least I am prepared. I am also hardly surprised, now that I think of it. While you can expect some bullies to grow up and become respectfull adults, not everyone is capable of such maturity.

Aaron Agassi
Aaron Agassi9 years ago

If you all do nothing else, just gather your wits and start by keeping a log. If you can covertly video record whatever harassment, better still.

Carol H.
Past Member 9 years ago

You think that bullying is bad in real America you should try living in South Florida where the Cubans are coming out our ears. When you have to work around them all they do is yell across the room or in warehouse all day long speaking in Spanish and you as American dare to object all they say to you they have a right to do so and by law they can't be stopped.
Yet if a person who only speaks English try the same thing you are shut up right away because the we only speak English and it is legal to shut us up.
One day my Cuban supervisor thought I went to the bathroom to often and she followed me in there to see what I was doing and she realized I wasn't talking but the only problem was I caught her so I went back to my office and asked her did need something because you followed me into the bathroom? She just looked at me and never answered me.
I noticed she never followed any of Cubans in the bathroom but see I was the only American in the department. The same thing happened to my husband and he got written up because he forgot to lock the door behind him and his supervisor followed him in there and pushed the door open and he said the reason why he wrote him up is because he forgot to lock the door.
If you are an American and you work in some parts of Florida you are not considered a good employee because you are not bi-lingual.
So I have been there and done that for many many years.

Carol H.
Past Member 9 years ago

You act as though this bulling is something new well it isn't by far. I went to school in the 50's 60's and it was terrible then but now it is the open. Because my hair was very curly people pull my hair to see it was real.
When I got mad people would call me grape face and laugh at me because my clothes weren't fashionable for them.
They would call me all kinds of names because they knew I was Central America and they would ask me if I lived in trees I finally gave up and told no I lived in five trees and I swung from tree to tree with my tail but when I landed here my tail fell off that was the only way to shut them up.
I had people following me in the hallways calling me all kinds of horrible names until one day I rolled up a piece of paper swung around and hit that boy in the face he never did that again.
When I was in high school I was sitting in class and someone threw a freshly chewed gum in hair and I pulled it out and started to throw it back. Quess who got into trouble ME because all the teacher saw was me wanting to throw it back. I was at speech class so she ordered me up on the stage and gave me a spanking with a wooded paddle.
What do you think she was trying to teach me?
1) For action there is reaction
2) Two (2) wrongs never ever make a right
In those days teachers had absolute rule and that is a fact.
But people speak as though this just starting happening and that is very wrong.

Thomas S.
9 years ago


With a good network of friends and family who love you, I think anyone could learn to come to grips with non-physical bullying, and use the experience, as I did, to form an image of self that did not previously exist. Once accomplished, this new self-image is a source of great personal strength, and actively prevents one from being bullied.