How to Stop A Workplace Bully

 In Assess & Protect


Q: I need to know how to stop a workplace bully. I’ve been reading about the Dolphin’s lineman, Jonathon Martin, and the bullying he was subjected to by teammates. Although it never occurred to me before, I’m concerned that some of my co-workers are acting the same and bullying one of our vendors. The vendor is a great person who sells branded merchandise to us. She comes in about twice a month. The guys at the counter all tried to flirt with her. But when she didn’t respond, they began to taunt her and call her “ice queen” and even “bitch” under their breath when she could hear them.

She hasn’t complained or said anything, but I’m disgusted. And now, incredibly, the guys are trying to bash her products to our manager in hopes of getting her contract cancelled. I’m pretty sure I spy a bully! How do I handle this?

A: Although it takes a lot to surprise me these days, I still shake my head when I hear these stories. With so much public attention being brought to bullying behavior in the schools and in the workplace, you’d think people, including the guilty parties, would get a clue and cut it out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.


The situation you describe is common in over 30% of the workplaces in America according to studies conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute. The bullies can be co-workers, managers or even external customers or vendors. And the same goes for the targets of the bullies. Many people mistakenly assume that it’s always a case of the boss bullying the worker, although that is most often the case.

Another mistake is to assume that it’s always men bullying women. Bullies come in all shapes, sizes and genders and can anyone they feel power over. Therefore, to learn how to stop a workplace bully, you have to pay attention so you notice what’s happening.

Who is responsible for dealing with a workplace bully?

YOU play a key role in recognizing this behavior and when you think “I spy a bully” you need to report it. Although it’s important to have in place policies that prohibit harassing and bullying behaviors in the workplace, that is not the cure.

Everyone must be on the lookout for these behaviors and they must be willing to report them to the appropriate authority. Timing is critical as well. The earlier such behaviors are recognized, reported and addressed, the less likely these situations will escalate into full-on workplace harassment or even violence. So keep that in mind.

There’s a great Forbes article that lists 25 of the most common types of behavior that bullies engage in and I recommend you read it to help raise your awareness of what could be considered bully behavior.


Having said that, here is a list of some of the “fallout” that can occur if you don’t learn how to stop a workplace bully:

  • Lower morale
  • Increased turnover
  • Increased costs and lower profitability
  • Reduced quality, safety and/or customer service
  • Decreased productivity and poor work performance
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Health issues such as stomach aches, headaches, stress, depression, stroke, heart attack
  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Lack of trust, and much more

Obviously, workplace bullying has an enormous impact on a company.

As you can imagine, owners and managers should be extremely concerned and take proactive steps to combat these behaviors, which can often cross over into illegal behaviors or violent behaviors. (Think enraged former employee shootings!)


So, back to your question, “What can I do?” The answer to that depends on a number of factors, including who is the bully, who is the target, who witnesses the behavior, how often it occurs, if the bully is a manager– is there anyone higher up that can be told, etc. However, there are several things you can do if you witness or believe you are the target of bullying :

  • Realize you are being bullied (or you are witnessing it) and it’s not about you and your work (or the target). It’s about dominance and control.
  • Learn to be fearless and take a stand from the beginning. This is the most vital tip because workplace bully victims suffer added pain and shame from not standing up to the bully in the first place.)
  • Stay professional. Speak calmly and confidently, and make your position clear.
  • Document and confide in others you trust.
  • Report it to Human Resources or a higher level of management if the bullying continues.


Every employee plays a key role in addressing bullying behavior.

However, it is imperative that management take it seriously and do everything possible to stop it.

Here is how to stop a workplace bully if you are the employer:

  • Treat your employees and colleagues with respect, and encourage employees to treat co-workers respectfully.
  • Familiarize your employees with the organization’s policy against bullying.
  • Learn conflict resolution techniques, and teach them to employees so that they can deal effectively with bullying behavior.
  • Take a public stand against bullying, and let employees know that you, personally, are opposed to any kind of inappropriate and disrespectful behavior on the job.
  • Also let workers know that you will enforce the organization’s policies against bullying.
  • Never ignore bullying; encourage reporting of all incidents of bullying right away.
  • Protect target(s) from bullies during and after the investigation.
  • Encourage employees to cooperate with investigations into workplace bullying.

Most importantly, employers should immediately adopt policies that prohibit bullying in the workplace. In addition, quickly implement training that raises awareness of bullying behavior and fosters open communications around the topic. As always, the goal is to address difficult situations at the lowest level possible. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of education and awareness.

And finally, it’s ONLY by bringing these issues into the light of day, that we can hope to end the dreadful impact that bullies have on our work environment.

Have YOU ever said to yourself, “I spy a bully—someone tell me how to stop a workplace bully!” What did you do about it? What will you do if you see bully behavior in the future?

Come on over to our Facebook page and tell us all about it.

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