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Phoenix Forward

5 ways to cope with a workplace bully

Bullies prey on co-workers

The playground isn’t the only place where bullies dwell; they can wreak havoc in the workplace, too.

The most important strategy for coping with workplace bullies is recognizing what constitutes bullying behavior, according to Cora Haskins, PhD, a licensed professional counselor and campus college chair for the Master of Science in Counseling program at the University of Phoenix Detroit Campus. Bullying includes verbal abuse, offensive conduct that is threatening or humiliating, and even physical violence — but most bullying tactics are more subtle, she says.

“Blame for errors, unreasonable work demands and stealing credit for your work” are all forms of bullying, Haskins says. “Or failure to provide the information needed to complete a project — and then the bullied target looks like a poor employee,” she adds. The easy answer: If you feel like you’re being bullied, you probably are.

Here, our experts offer tips on how to cope with bullying on the job:


Understand that it isn’t your fault.

Bullies target others because they feel inadequate or threatened, and they want to make themselves feel better, according to Haskins.

“One of the most important things for bullying targets to understand is that they are not to blame for the behavior,” she says. “Nor do they need to accept the behavior — they have the right to ask for and receive help, and to be treated with dignity and respect.


Ask for help.

Victims of physical abuse should immediately contact the police, and victims of verbal abuse and more subtle bullying behaviors should notify their supervisors and human resources departments.

Haskins also recommends that victims reach out to their personal physicians or seek professional counseling when needed. “We know there is a positive correlation between stress and illness,” she says.


Build a support system.

If you’re a target of workplace bullying, reach out to others for support. “Get positive affirmation from people you trust, whether they are co-workers, friends or family,” says Antoinette Dziedzic, MSN, campus college chair of the nursing program at the University of Phoenix Detroit Campus.

Sometimes just talking about how the behavior makes you feel can help you cope. Supportive friends and colleagues might also have advice on how to deal with the bully, Dziedzic says.

An excellent coping strategy, she adds, is to maintain a positive self-image and keep reminding yourself that the bully is the one with the problem, not you.


Create an action plan.

Victims of bullying should work with their supervisors and their human resources departments to develop a constructive solution, Dziedzic says. “Go up through the chain of command until you get results,” she says.


Get another job.

If coping strategies and action plans fail, it may be time to look for another job.

“When bullying begins to affect your health and wellness, and your employer isn’t taking appropriate action to stop it,” Dziedzic says, “it’s time to seek greener pastures.”

Interested in furthering your education?