How to Handle Bullying at Work

Bullying at work is a serious issue that can have devastating consequences. It is especially common for women, who are more likely than men to be targeted by bullies. If you find yourself in a situation where your boss is bullying you, it’s important to take action and protect yourself. Let’s look at some steps you can take to handle this difficult situation.

What is Bullying?

Bullying can take many forms.  Sometimes it is overt such as yelling, threatening, or demeaning comments.  Other times it may be more subtle such as backhanded compliments or taking credit for work you did.  

people pointing fingers at a stressed woman. this represent bullying at work.
Photo by Yan Krukau on

Understand the Situation

The first step in dealing with any difficult problem is to understand exactly what it is and why it’s happening. In other words, try to get a clear picture of the bullying behavior and its underlying causes. Ask yourself questions like: Is my boss trying to control me? Does my boss feel threatened by me? What might be causing my boss’s behavior? Taking the time to ask these questions will help you better understand what’s going on and how best to respond.

Set Boundaries

Once you’ve identified the problem, it’s time to set boundaries with your boss and let them know that their behavior is unacceptable. Be sure to clearly communicate your expectations, such as “I expect respect from my colleagues” or “I won’t accept comments that are demeaning or degrading.” Make sure your boundaries are firm but also respectful; don’t allow yourself to be drawn into an argument or heated exchange. Your goal should be simply to communicate your expectations and make sure they are respected going forward.

Document Everything

If all else fails and your boss continues their bullying behavior despite your attempts at setting boundaries, then it’s time for more drastic measures. This includes documenting every incident of bullying behavior, including dates, times, details of what was said or done, and any witnesses who may have seen the incident occur. Be sure to save all emails, voicemails and texts that contain bullying behavior.  This will not only provide evidence of the bullying but also give you insight into patterns of behavior that may emerge over time—such as when certain scenarios trigger bullying behaviors—so that you can better prepare for future incidents.

Get Support

Once you have the incidences documented, consider reaching out to your Human Resources Department. They should have structured protocols in place to address the situation.  You can also benefit from emotional support.  Share the situation with a close friend or a family member.  If the bullying is causing significant distress, consider professional counseling. 

woman wearing red and black checkered blouse using macbook
Photo by Christina Morillo on

Bullying in the workplace can have serious consequences if left unchecked. While confronting a bully head-on isn’t always easy or comfortable, taking action is essential if you want to protect yourself from further abuse. By understanding the problem, setting boundaries with your boss, and documenting every incident of bullying behavior, you can take control of the situation and ensure that your rights are respected in the workplace.

Sharon Fisher, MS, PMHNP, PMH-C is the founder of Nurtured Well, LLC–a bully free workplace!

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