5 Effective Strategies to Handle a Workplace Bully and Reclaim Your Professional Confidence

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Jul 7, 2023 6 min read

You may still have memories of bullies terrorizing you on your elementary school playground. Unfortunately, bullies are also a common occurrence within the workplace. They use verbal abuse to create a toxic workplace culture.

Maybe you’re the one who’s dealing with a bully, or maybe you’ve spotted one of your coworkers dealing with abuse. If bullying occurs but isn’t properly dealt with by management and human resources, you may feel like your workplace isn’t a safe space.

If you’re interested in coming up with ways to stop workplace bullying in your own office or prevent such behavior from occurring, then you’re in the right spot. In this article, we’ll address:

  • How to identify the workplace bully
  • Strategies to deal with workplace bullying
  • Tips to reclaim your professional confidence.

If you’re dealing with a hostile work environment, speak to a career counselor from Enhancv. They’ll walk you through how to cultivate healthy working relationship with another coworker.

Identifying the Workplace Bully

According to a 2021 national survey, the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 30% of employees have experienced bullying in their career. Another 19% of employees have witnessed bullying in their workplace. When employees who have been bullied bring their concerns to their employers, 60% of employers have had negative reactions, minimizing or even encouraging the behavior.

Since so many employees have been affected by bullying, it’s important to examine the workplace bullies you may come across:

Types of bullies in the workplace

The aggressive bully

This is the typical one that may come into your mind when you think of bullies. This is the boss who yells and makes a fuss when they don’t receive total obedience from their employees. They might also toss a belittling comment your way if you don’t meet their expectations.

The passive-aggressive bully

These are a little harder to find, but are equally devious and hurtful. They might make little needling statements which at first seem like compliments, but once you really think about it, are really hurtful. “Thanks for showing up on time—for once,” or “great job on this project—if only you could do this kind of work regularly,”.

Passive aggressive bullies may also subtly act out. They may move the time of a meeting with little warning, or thank you for the work that you’ve done, while completely disregarding it.

The dominant, direct bully

In the workplace, you may come across people who see themselves as ‘alphas’, dominant and aggressive individuals who speak their mind without taking into consideration other people’s feelings.

These people may not see themselves as bullies because they only ‘tell the truth’. Some people excuse the behavior of people who are direct, saying that this is ‘just who they are.’ But you should bring to their attention how their words come across to others.

The gossip

Gossips will tell you one thing about your face, but behind your back they’ll tear you apart. The hardest part is that it’s really hard to catch these bullies because they may ask the people to keep their gossip confidential. If you don’t know what’s being said about you, you can really defend yourself.

Signs of workplace bullies

Some signs of bullying are overt, like verbally or physically abusive conduct. Others may be more covert, like gossip and passive-aggressive behavior. Below, you can find the most common signs of workplace bullying:

  • Being accused of falsely making mistakes
  • Ignoring or dismissing an employee’s thoughts
  • Having a unique set of standards applying to different employees
  • Gossiping about certain employees, which includes making fun of their sexual orientation, physical appearance, or their religious affiliation
  • Belittling a coworker in a meeting
  • Excluding coworkers from meetings, events, or projects
  • Yelling at an employee.
  • Conducting sexual harassment of another employee
  • Posturing using aggressive body language

The Importance of Addressing Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying can lead to poor employee morale, lost productivity, and high employee turnover. It may also negatively affect the mental and physical health of employees. In fact, it may even lead to workplace violence, either by the employee being bullied or by the bully.

5 Strategies on How to Deal With a Workplace Bully

Avoidance and ignoring the bully

The best thing that you can do is not to ignore the behavior. If you’re the one being bullied or a coworker of someone who is, speak to a human resources representative. Make sure you document any abusive conduct.

If you’re in a management role, don’t minimize complaints that are brought to you. Even if a complaint is addressing your behavior, you need to show an employee that you take their complaint seriously.

Documenting the bullying behavior

It’s always a good idea to document your issues with your HR department because you can make a written record. Having a written record provides both you and your HR representative with a history of complaints, and if another complaint comes up, you’ve built up a strong case for a bully’s wrongdoing.

Seeking support from coworkers or a supervisor

If you have a powerful support group around you at work, then you should speak to them about the issues going on. Try to limit the issues to only a few people who you can speak candidly with, as you don’t want to spread gossip.

Confronting the bully in a calm and assertive manner

Even though it might be a little scary, speak to your bully, sharing with them how their words and actions make you feel bullied. Some may not even know that their words have hurt you.

When you bring up your complaints, do so in a calm and assertive manner. Avoid yelling or raising your voice.

Seeking professional help or guidance

When you’ve been bullied, you may struggle with your mental health. Speak to a mental health professional because they can help you assess any negative emotions you have and help you regain your self-esteem.

Tips for Reclaiming Your Professional Confidence

Focus on your strengths and accomplishments

Bullies manipulate and control their victims, leaving them with very little confidence in their abilities. If you’ve been yelled at, belittled, or excluded, then you may feel you have nothing to offer your company.

But you should focus on your strengths and achievements to reorient how you view yourself. Even if you’ve been told that your work is sub-par, remember back to when you were praised for the work you were doing. Maybe you help develop a key part of your company’s policy on onboarding new clients or you’ve led the sales team in sales numbers. Be proud of the work that you’ve done.

Develop a positive self-image

You can develop a positive self-image by taking time to focus on your own self-care. Think through what makes you unique, and spend time with those who care about you, like family and friends.

Consider finding a new job if the bullying persists

You can always find another job if it doesn’t get any better. In fact, if your complaints haven’t been addressed by management, then you likely work at a company that has an unhealthy company culture. It’s best to start getting your resume and cover letter dusted off, and enter the job hunt.


It’s up to you to prevent bullying at work because one bully’s behavior can have a detrimental effect on you, your coworkers, and the company culture. Bullied employees feel unsafe in their workplace, and this can lead to burnout and turnover. Creating a bully free workplace involves directly addressing the complaint, creating a written record, and addressing the bully.

If you take active steps to root out abusive behavior and support the wellbeing of your coworkers, you’ll help to create a positive work environment.

You may still be hesitant to take on an office bully. But if you need a confidence boost, speak to a career counselor from Enhacv. They can help you gain the confidence to call out one or more perpetrators and root out inappropriate behavior in the office.

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Dave Van Kooten
Is a human resource expert that helps passionate jobseekers to put their best foot forward to prepare for an interview. He believes that success can be achieved through going out of your comfort zone.
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