How to Spot a Workplace Bully

Many of us hoped that we had left the world of bullies behind in grade school, but unfortunately it’s just as common to find a bully in the workplace as it is in the school playground. Workplace bullying can have a major negative impact on any work environment, leaving individuals feeling victimised, uncomfortable, and insecure in their career. Watch out for these signs – if you spot them, mediation may be necessary.


  1. They set unmanageable targets. A tough boss is a common workplace hazard, but there’s a fine line between setting high standards and bullying. If your superior often assigns you tasks that are unachievable, sets deadlines that leave you working all night, or overloads you with mountains of work that you can’t handle, you may be a victim of workplace bullying.
  2. They get aggressive. You should never have to put up with somebody verbally harassing you, whether that’s through yelling and shouting or swearing at you. This kind of behaviour is inappropriate and intimidating, and can definitely be classed as bullying.
  3. They gossip behind your back. Some gossip is to be expected in any work environment, but when the water cooler conversations become malicious or involve the spreading of cruel rumours, things have gone too far. Your private life should remain private, so any gossip that damages your professional reputation should be seen as malicious bullying behaviour.
  4. They humiliate you. There’s a time and a place for calling out mistakes at work. If your colleague makes a point of criticising your work or actions publically so that others hear, belittles your opinions in meetings or make you feel embarrassed and uncomfortable at work, there’s definitely cause for concern.
  5. They sabotage your attempts to make progress in your career. A little workplace competition can be healthy, but a colleague who deliberately prevents you from receiving the promotion you deserve or attempts to take credit for work that you have put time and effort into, is verging into bullying territory. This can also apply if they undermine your work in front of superiors, impeding your attempts to advance your career.
  6. They take work away from you. Having too much work piled up is certainly a problem, but taking work away without good cause can be, too. If you find yourself having responsibilities removed without any explanation, being demoted, or consistently given too little to do, making you feel relatively useless at the office, you may be a victim of workplace bullying.

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Heidi Smith is the principal psychologist at Aresolution. Heidi has over 12 years experience in counselling. Heidi is passionate about working with couples, families and individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. In couple counselling Heidi has a particular interest in helping couples manage conflict and recover from affairs.