When Does a Difficult Person Become a Bully?

In today’s workplace, you are expected to be able to get along with all types of people.  If a coworker or manager is treating you poorly, it can be a challenge to determine whether they are a workplace bully, or just a difficult person.  The line that distinguishes bullying from difficult behaviour can be fuzzy.  If you aren’t sure if you are being bullied, it may stop you from taking action, because you don’t want to be labeled as someone who can’t work with others.

Here are some ways to identify a bully:

How do you feel?  When a person is being bullied, they often exhibit some of the following symptoms:  Feelings of shock, anger, frustration or helplessness; increased sense of vulnerability; loss of confidence; inability to sleep; loss of appetite; stomach pains; headaches; panic or anxiety, especially about going to work; family tension and stress; inability to concentrate; and low morale and productivity.  Remember that bullying affects different people in different ways.  However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is a clue that something may be wrong.  (Source: www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/bullying.html)

Check with others.  Talk to your friends and family about the situation.  Ask for their opinion.  Do they think that the behaviour crosses the line?  Put it to the “Reasonable Person Test”:  Would most people consider the actions unacceptable?  (Source: www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/bullying.html)  You can also speak to trusted coworkers.  Since they are actually there, they may be able to offer some useful insight.  It is even possible that this individual has bullied other employees in the past.  It is essential that you only talk to trustworthy colleagues as you don’t want to get accused of gossiping, or playing the office politics game.

Typical bullying behaviour:

If you still aren’t sure if you are being bullied, take a look at examples of typical bullying behaviour.  You may find that you did not recognize some of these acts as bullying. It is also important to note that according to statistics, 71% of workplace bullies are in positions of authority.  (Source:  www.bullyfreeatwork.com)

  • Spreading malicious rumours, gossip or innuendo that is not true
  • Excluding or isolating someone socially
  • Intimidating a person
  • Undermining or deliberately impeding a person’s work
  • Physically abusing or threatening abuse
  • Removing areas of responsibilities without cause
  • Constantly changing work guidelines
  • Establishing impossible deadlines that will set up the individual to fail
  • Withholding necessary information or purposely giving the wrong information.
  • Making jokes that are ‘obviously offensive’ by spoken word or e-mail
  • Intruding on a person’s privacy by pestering, spying or stalking
  • Assigning unreasonable duties or workload which are unfavourable to one person (in a way that creates unnecessary pressure)
  • Underwork- creating a feeling of uselessness
  • Yelling or using profanity
  • Criticising a person persistently or constantly
  • Belittling a person’s opinions
  • Unwarranted (or undeserved) punishment
  • Blocking applications for training, leave or promotion
  • Tampering with a person’s personal belongings or work equipment.

(Source: www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/bullying.html)

If, after reading all of this, you have determined that you are being bullied, you can take heart in the fact that bullies usually target employees who are popular, and good at their job.  They chose you to target because they see you as a potential threat.  (Source: www.bullyfreeatwork.com

Now that you know that your bully’s behaviour is unacceptable, it is time to take action. The first step is to visit the links in this article to educate yourself on workplace bullying.  Don’t allow this behaviour to continue.  It can affect your work performance, your peace of mind, and even your health.  Nobody deserves to be bullied.

(Written By:  Karen Bivand)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s