Are You the Workplace Bully?

Becky Banham
By Becky Banham,
updated on Feb 16, 2024

Are You the Workplace Bully?

With so much attention focused on playground bullying, it’s hard to imagine that adults are bullied too. But grown-up oppression does exist – particularly in the workplace – and the bully in the room might be you

In a Counselling Directory survey of more than 1,000 adults, 30 percent said they had experienced bullying in the workplace. Of those people, a further 60 percent said they didn’t seek any form of office support. With a hierarchical structure and a natural competitive element in the workplace, the temptation to step on colleagues is a common occurrence.

Bullying, however, can turn a safe and enjoyable work environment into a place that you dread stepping into every morning. And it might be you that’s causing the problem. We often think of adult bullying as arguments or rudeness, but it can be far subtler. You might not even think of yourself as a bully, but your behaviour may actually be affecting others.

We explore some of the key signs to tell if you might be overstepping the mark:

This is photo of people at work laughing at a colleague

You’re not inclusive

You don’t have to openly exclude someone to make them feel left out. Purposefully neglecting to ask someone about their weekend, or not actively inviting them to take part in social events after work can be just as hurtful as exclusion.

You join in on the joke

You don’t have to be the person making a joke about a work colleague to be the bully – the act of taking part in office gossip and criticism attaches you to bullying behaviour.

You make things go your way

Do you criticise others’ ideas? Or raise your voice to talk over, or interrupt your colleagues in order to make sure your ideas are heard loudest? It’s natural to want to persuade others to our own point of view, but it can become extreme if you find that you’re frequently getting your own way. If strong persuasion is within your skill set, it’s possible that you’re actually manipulating others into submission – maybe without even noticing.

This is photo of people at work arguing

No one will speak out

You enjoy holding dominance and control over others, but if people are intimidated by you then it’s highly unlikely they will approach you to address your behaviour.

So, how do we identify the bully in ourselves?

Self-critiquing is hard (particularly as we get older), but self-analysing will help to make you more successful in the long term – and prevent you from hurting people’s feelings. If you recognise some of these behaviours in yourself, it’s important to try to make amends. Actions speak louder than words.

Perhaps the best way to start is by consciously making an effort to alter your behaviour and the way you interact with your colleagues. Once someone has felt victimised, it can damage the trust and respect they hold for you. However, opinions can change.

We’re all guilty of sometimes assuming that people understand how we act, or what we want from them. But it’s important to be aware that not everyone will react in the same way. Try to be positive and polite in the office – it will earn you respect and friendship.

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