How to beat workplace bullying

Cleaner, CEO, office junior, driver or clerk - perhaps the one thing that we all share is the expectation to be treated with dignity at work. Yet, when that expectation is shattered and we are bullied or harassed in the workplace, it can be difficult to know what to do for the best.


The majority of people feel they left bullying behind in their school days and had moved to a better way of communicating, so it comes as a shock to be the target of aggression. Victims will feel powerless or ashamed that they feel unable to stand up to the bully. It is usual to feel that you are alone, one of the few adults targeted in this way. Is it some reflection on you? Yet, just as in the school yard, nothing could be further from the truth.

What is workplace bullying and harassment?

Bullying and harassment in the workplace can take many forms:

  • Undermining someone - this might be through spreading malicious rumours or gossiping. It might be a boss setting someone up to fail in their work. It may be taking away responsibility from someone without reasonable cause.
  • Making offensive jokes (especially those which are sexist, religious, racist, etc). It can be the use of profanity or belittling someone's opinion all of the time (especially in front of others).
  • Intruding on someone’s privacy or pestering them. This includes managers asking personal details that they have no need to know.
  • Overloading someone with work or pressure, or deliberately avoiding or passing over them.

If this is happening to you, the first thing to be clear about is that you do have a right to be treated with dignity and respect at work. That is true no matter how well you are performing in work.

Your employer is bound to protect you from harassment at work and you can ask them to take action to stop any harassment.

Tackling bullying at work

There are practical steps you can take to put a stop to this. You can talk to your manager (if your manager is the problem, talk to their manager or to HR). Be clear about what the unwanted behaviour is and what you would like to happen. Often, it can be helpful if you have noted in a diary some incidents, dates and times, of what happened, who was there and what was said. However, at this stage make it brief and to the point. You may have other supporting materials like emails.

If you are a member of a union, they have practical ways to help and support you through the process. Ultimately, if your employer does nothing you may have legal redress. Yet most people find that there is a way through the problem well before that.

Getting the right support is key in helping you combat the mixed feelings and to help you process your self-esteem and confidence. You could consider counselling, which you can access privately or through your company’s EAP service.

Whatever way you decide to tackle your problems at work, remember you have that right to dignity and respect. So you are only asking for what is due to you. Get support and decide what action you want to take to be treated with dignity at work.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Glasgow, G46
Written by Graeme Orr, MBACP(Accred) Counsellor
Glasgow, G46

Graeme is a counsellor and author living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.

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