The 3 R’s for dealing with workplace bullying

decrease font size  Resize text   increase font size       Printer-friendly version of this article Printer-friendly version of this article

We’ve heard a lot recently about bullying in the classroom, but what about bullying in the boardroom? Yes, workplace bullying is a pressing problem in today’s workplaces. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), 35 percent of the U.S. workforce report being bullied at work. That’s an estimated 53.5 million Americans being bullied right now! An additional 15 percent of people have witnessed workplace bullying. In all, half of all Americans have firsthand experience with workplace bullying in some way.

At first glance, it’s easy to brush off workplace bullying as just the way business is done. After all, haven’t we all heard such phrases as “It’s a dog eat dog world” and “Only the strong survive?” But being driven to succeed and being a bully are two completely different things.

The fact is that workplace bullying is often harmful to an organization because it impedes the organization’s growth and success. It also costs organizations dearly in terms of lost productivity, increased use of sick days, and time for management’s intervention. For example, WBI estimates that between turnover and lost productivity alone, workplace bullying could cost a Fortune 500 company $24 million each year. Add another $1.4 million for litigation and settlement costs, and this is one problem no company can afford to ignore.

Since everyone has the right to work in a safe, healthy, and bully-free workplace, what can employees and leaders do to stop workplace bullying? The key is to follow the three R’s. 

  • Recognize It

Say the word “bully” and most people envision a playground thug threatening the weakest kid around. In the workplace, bullying often looks much different. While screaming, yelling, and cursing at someone certainly constitutes bullying, other lesser-recognized forms of bullying include:

  • Belittling employees
  • Excluding people from meetings and other activities
  • Denying employees the resources or assistance needed to get the job done
  • Spreading nasty rumors about people
  • Ignoring the employee
  • Making dismissive remarks
  • Dishing out unwarranted blame or criticism

Ultimately, anything that can be construed as an act of intimidation is really a form a bullying. And when people feel intimidated, they can’t get their job done effectively. Interestingly, both men and women bully. But the majority of bullying is same-gender harassment, which is a loophole often overlooked in anti-discrimination laws and workplace policies.   

  • Refuse It

If you feel you’re being bullied in any way, simply refuse the attack. In other words, don’t engage the person who is bullying you. Walk away, ignore it, or don’t acknowledge the behavior. Yes, sometimes this is very difficult, especially if someone is yelling at you or pushing your buttons. But engaging with the person in the same manner he or she is attacking you will only spiral the situation out of control. Usually, not engaging the bully and showing that his or her words or actions have no effect will make the person go away.

If the bullying action includes you being ignored or ostracized, you need to take the lead and initiate a conversation with the person. State that you feel you are being ignored and why this behavior is impeding your ability to get the job done. Make sure you focus on the behavior rather than the person specifically to reduce the chances of the person becoming defensive.   

  • Report It

If you cannot handle the bullying situation yourself, you need to talk to someone who can make a difference. Depending on the situation, this could mean talking with your boss, HR manager, or even a manager in another department. Keep going up the chain of command until you find someone who can intervene on your behalf. If no one within your organization seems willing or able to help, you may want to file a complaint against the bully with your industry’s professional organization (if you have one). Fortunately, almost anything can be worked out if both parties are open to it. You simply need to find someone to act as a moderator if talking one-on-one with the bully isn’t an option. 

A Bully-Free Future

With all this said, realize that a leader who is tough or demanding is not necessarily a bully. All bosses have the right and obligation to set and uphold high standards of performance, as long as they exercise fairness, respect, and objectivity in their dealings with subordinates and others. Therefore, to differentiate whether your boss is being a bully or simply being tough, check if you or your co-workers are being singled out in a negative or demeaning way. Bullying is often a personal attack; leading in a firm and focused way is not. 

The only way to curb workplace bullying is to tackle the issue head on. The more awareness people have of the topic, and the more prepared they are to deal with it, the more progress companies will make to end the problem once and for all.

Danita Johnson Hughes, Ph.D. is a healthcare industry executive, public speaker and author of the forthcoming “Turnaround.” Through her work she inspires people to dream big and understand the role of personal responsibility in personal and professional success. In her first book, “Power from Within,” Danita shares her “Power Principles for Success” that helped her overcome meager beginnings and achieve professional, community and personal success. For more information visit, or write to her at

Prev 1 2 Next All

Buyers Guide

Doyle Equipment Manufacturing Co.
Doyle Equipment Manufacturing prides themselves as being “The King of the Rotary’s” with their Direct Drive Rotary Blend Systems. With numerous setup possibilities and sizes, ranging from a  more...
A.J. Sackett Sons & Company
Sackett Blend Towers feature the H.I.M, High Intensity Mixer, the next generation of blending and coating technology which supports Precision Fertilizer Blending®. Its unique design allows  more...
R&R Manufacturing Inc.
The R&R Minuteman Blend System is the original proven performer. Fast, precise blending with a compact foot print. Significantly lower horsepower requirement. Low inload height with large  more...
Junge Control Inc.
Junge Control Inc. creates state-of-the-art product blending and measuring solutions that allow you to totally maximize operating efficiency with amazing accuracy and repeatability, superior  more...
Yargus Manufacturing
The flagship blending system for the Layco product line is the fully automated Layco DW System™. The advanced technology of the Layco DW (Declining Weight) system results in a blending  more...
Yargus Manufacturing
The LAYCOTE™ Automated Coating System provides a new level of coating accuracy for a stand-alone coating system or for coating (impregnating) in an automated blending system. The unique  more...
John Deere
The DN345 Drawn Dry Spreader can carry more than 12 tons of fertilizer and 17.5 tons of lime. Designed to operate at field speeds up to 20 MPH with full loads and the G4 spreader uniformly  more...
Force Unlimited
The Pro-Force is a multi-purpose spreader with a wider apron and steeper sides. Our Pro-Force has the most aggressive 30” spinner on the market, and is capable of spreading higher rates of  more...
BBI Spreaders
MagnaSpread 2 & MagnaSpread 3 — With BBI’s patented multi-bin technology, these spreaders operate multiple hoppers guided by independent, variable-rate technology. These models are built on  more...

Comments (0) Leave a comment 

e-Mail (required)


characters left

LPV Seed Treater

The LPV Seed Treater has set a new standard boasting three configurable weighing methods for any-sized operation, a standard 42” ... Read More

View all Products in this segment

View All Buyers Guides

Feedback Form
Feedback Form