How to Get a Bully to Back off in the Work Place

Two Parts:Being Confident and Standing Up for YourselfConfronting the Issue Directly

Bullies don't disappear when you finish high school; many people encounter bullies in the workplace as well. These workplace bullies typically put others down and attempt to sabotage their coworkers in an attempt to make themselves look better or advance their own careers. If you are dealing with a bully at work, you will have to stand up to them if you want the situation to improve.

Part 1
Being Confident and Standing Up for Yourself

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    Don't take things too personally. Some people are not particularly friendly when they're in a professional environment, and it's important to distinguish this kind of behavior from bullying. Just because someone is not treating you like a buddy, does not mean you're being bullied, so try not to let small offences affect you too seriously.[1]
    • Try not to get too upset every time someone critiques your work or disagrees with you. This kind of behavior usually does not constitute bullying.[2]
    • True bullies will engage in unnecessarily aggressive or hostile behavior. They will often target one or more people by spreading rumors about them, taking credit for things that they have done, or failing to include them in important matters. This kind of behavior needs to be addressed right away.
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    Dismiss inappropriate comments in a professional way. If a workplace bully is talking about you in a way that is not appropriate, it's important to stand up for yourself, but to do so in a dignified and professional way. Consider saying something like, "That's not an appropriate way to talk about your coworkers" or "You are acting in a very unprofessional way."[3]
    • Never stoop to the bully's level and return insults with insults. This will only egg the bully on and make you look bad to your other coworkers.
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    Keep your cool. It's important not to let the bully see how emotional you are. Letting on that the bully is causing you emotional distress will only make the situation worse because that is exactly what the bully wants.[4]
    • If you can't continue talking to the bully without losing it, simply remove yourself from the situation.[5]
    • If you need to let your emotions out, find someone you can confide in and make sure the bully will never know about it.
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    Find strength in numbers. If the workplace bully is targeting other employees as well, stand up for them and ask them to do the same for you. For example, if you hear the bully telling everyone that one of your coworkers is not doing her job, consider chiming in and letting everyone know how much help that employee offered you on a recent project.[6]
    • The more you and your other positive coworkers stick together as a team, the less power the bully will have over any of you.

Part 2
Confronting the Issue Directly

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    Talk to the bully about boundaries. If the bully is not relenting even though you are standing up for yourself, you might need to have a more direct conversation. Explain exactly what kind of behavior you will no longer tolerate.[7]
    • You can be assertive without being aggressive. For example, instead of saying, "You need to stop being such a jerk to me," you can say, "It's not appropriate for you to shut down my ideas without letting me explain them."
    • Make sure to clearly communicate the consequences that the bully will face if he continues the same behavior. For example, you might say, "If you continue to spread rumors about me, I will report you to HR."
    • This conversation will let the bully know that you are not going to just roll over and allow others to treat you badly.
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    Talk to the bully's enablers. In some cases, high-ranking employees who have the power to stop the bully's bad behavior end up enabling them instead, simply by failing to react to the unacceptable behavior. If this is the case in your workplace, consider having a talk with the enablers and asking them to help.[8]
    • For example, if the bully constantly belittles other people in meetings, you could ask the manager who typically runs the meetings to create clearer guidelines for good meeting etiquette.
    • The bully never has to know that you talked to someone about their behavior. You could ask the enabler to just make a general announcement about new policies instead of singling out that person.
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    Tell a superior about the bully. If you've tried handling the situation on your own to no avail, you may want to consider talking to a superior. If you and the bully have different bosses, determine which of them you think would be most willing to help you.[9]
    • It helps if you can have evidence to support your claims of bullying. For example, if the bully left you a nasty voicemail or posted an inappropriate comment about you on the company message board, bring this evidence to your meeting with the bully's superior.
    • There is always a risk that you will be considered a "troublemaker" if you complain about a coworker. In some cases, you may risk losing your job, especially if the bully is a high-ranking employee. It's important to understand these risks before you decide to complain about the bully.
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    File a formal complaint with HR. Your last option for reporting the bully will typically be to go to your company's human resources department and file a formal complaint. Just like complaining to a superior, this may have unintended consequences, so be sure that you are ready to deal with them before you complain.[10]
    • It's especially important to file a complaint if you have been the victim of sexual harassment or if the bully has been violent in any way.
    • Always consult your employee handbook to understand the proper procedure for reporting an incident, as this is different for every company.
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    Consider moving on. If nothing you do helps the situation and the bully is making you completely miserable at work, it might be time for you to move on to a new job. While this may seem like quitting, you can't underestimate the importance of your own happiness and mental health.[11]


  • Bullies are usually weak and insecure on the inside, which is why they feel the need to be so outwardly aggressive. Understanding the motivations behind their behavior may make it a little easier to deal with them.
  • Bullies often target the best employees because they feel that these people pose a threat to their own success. For this reason, attempting to befriend a bully will typically not work.[12]

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Categories: Interacting with Colleagues