Ten Common Obvious Signs of Workplace Bullying

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March 9, 2020 by Stacey S. Joseph CDP, ODCP, MBA for ImpactEDI™

Since we began our series on The Bully at Work, I’ve received a host of emails, comments, and DMs from targets/victims of workplace bullying.  The stories seem to vary, with one shared factor being that supervisors and/or other co-workers who witnessed the bullying, turned a a blind eye.

If you’re following our four part series on Workplace Bullying which began with The Bully at Work, you’ve learned that Workplace Bullying is defined as the unwanted offensive, intimidating, malicious, and/or insulting behavior, and abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the person being bullied either by damaging their reputation, their self-confidence, or the relationships that the target has formed with others. It is repeated, often times health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (targets) by one or more perpetrators.  It is abusive conduct that can be the cause of work interference and sabotage, which may or may not, but typically prevents work from getting done. Workplace bullying tends to be psychological in nature but can also be physical or even walk a fine line between physical and psychological with certain types of posturing. It can be subtle or outright and is characterized by the following scale: Repetition: occurring regularly; Duration, so that it’s enduring; and finally: Escalatory, as it becomes increasingly aggressive.  Because there is usually a power disparity, the target(s) lacks the power to successfully defend themselves.

Recently, there has been a growing interest in research around the role of bystanders in bullying.  The research into bystander intervention in workplace bullying is especially compelling because it shows that *bystanders play a more important role than supervisors because as they tend to outnumber supervisors, they can react immediately to bullying acts, and co-workers are more likely to confide in them. To that end, bystanders are therefore likely to be the first individuals who are in a position to report the bullying or discourage and de-escalate bullying behaviors before supervisors are aware of the situation.  Because both targets/victims of workplace bullying and bystanders struggle with identifying the behaviors that constitute bullying, we’ve previously comprised a list of the Ten Common Subtle Signs of Workplace Bullying.  When left unchecked or reported, this subtle behaviors lead to more obvious/egregious behaviors.  Whether you’re a target of workplace bullying or a bystander, it’s important to name the behaviors as bullying.  To help you do this, we’ve listed ten of the most common, more obvious signs of workplace bullying here. bully b

Ten Common Obvious Signs of Workplace Bullying

  1. Belittling. Persistently disparaging someone or their opinions, ideas, work, or personal circumstances in an unreasonable and undeserving manner.
  2. Embarrassment. Embarrassing, humiliating, or degrading an employee in front of others.
  3. Offensive Communication.  Communicating offensively by using profanity, demeaning jokes, rumors, gossip, or harassment.
  4. Aggressions. Yelling or shouting at an employee.  Exhibiting anger and/or other forms of aggression both verbally or non-verbally.
  5. Coercion. Aggressively forcing or persuading someone to say or do things against their will or their better judgement.
  6. Threats. Threatening unwarranted discipling, punishment, or termination, and/or physical, emotional, or psychological abuse.
  7. Campaigning.  Launching an overt or underhanded campaign to oust the person out of their job or out of the organization.
  8. Punishment. Undeservedly punishing an employee. Punishing with physical discipline or psychologically through passive aggression, or emotionally through isolation.
  9. Revenge. Active vindictive toward someone; seeking revenge when mistakes occur; retaliating against someone.
  10. Blocking advancement or growth.  Unfairly impeding an employee’s progression, growth, and or advancement within the organization.

If you’ve witnessed or been the target of any of these behaviors at work, this is workplace bullying, and it’s important to name.  Once you name it, you are one step closer to stopping it. In our final piece on workplace bullying, we’ll provide you with steps you can take to put an end to workplace bullying, as well as provide you with resources that will help you move forward.

Photo Credit – Featured Image –Jesadaphorn/Shutterstock ; ‘Woman With Whip’ – Shutterstock
*Scully, M., & Rowe, M. (2009).


3 thoughts on “Ten Common Obvious Signs of Workplace Bullying

  1. I spotted this in Reader and workplace bullying is a problem that isn’t addressed nearly enough. With that said, thank you so much for posting such a powerful article on the subject. This resonates with me because about ten years ago, I was bullied in the workplace. Lucky for me, I kept documentation of all the bullying incidences by writing about it and on some days, going into work with a recording device hidden on me. I also kept records of all my completed work. I kept all of this neatly in a CYA file. It also helped that I had a supervisor with an open mind and who watched out for his employees. Eventually, I was able to walk away from the job confidently and on my own terms. Sadly, I saw so many others who were also bullied but who weren’t so lucky. They ended up being terminated and my heart breaks for them.

    Again, thank you for posting! So many people need to know the signs and better protect themselves!

    1. Thank you for your comment. Workplace Bullying is certainly a prevalent issue that isn’t given the attention that it should be in the workplace. We will be interviewing targets of workplace bullying and would love to speak with you for an upcoming podcast. Please email us at info@impactedi.com

  2. Matthew Culbertson March 12, 2020 — 5:04 pm

    I’m glad this piece touches upon the importance the roll of bystanders play in their ability to take action against bullying. This article articulates further the “see something, say something” mantra against wrongdoings. Great and informative read.

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