Am I Being Bullied at Work? 12 Signs of Bullying in the Workplace

December 4, 2017
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Sadly, and frighteningly, workplace bullying is incredibly common. The Trades Union Congress found that a staggering 29% of people have been bullied at work, with even more reporting to have witnessed bullying occur.

Bullying can take many forms. It can be covert and subtle, or it can be blatant and obvious. Bullying does not have to occur a certain number of times to be classified as such; any instance of behaviour that is intended to hurt, threaten, intimidate, force, or coerce, is bullying.


Signs of Workplace Bullying

If you have experienced any of the above behaviours in your workplace, it is time to ask yourself ‘Am I being bullied at work?’. To help you answer this, we have outlined some common noticeable signs of workplace bullying. These are:

  • Constant criticism.
  • Removal of duties without reason.
  • Overbearing supervision or monitoring.
  • Threats, aggression, and shouting.
  • Being put down, picked on (either in private or in front of others), and made to feel like the butt of the jokes.
  • Being excluded and ignored.
  • Having malicious rumours spread.
  • Unwelcome sexual advances.
  • Misusing a position of power to belittle, demean, or intimidate.
  • Refusing reasonable requests.
  • Unfounded threats and comments about job security.
  • Blocking promotion, progress, or training opportunities.

Behaviours of a ‘Bully Boss’

Workplace bullying can happen between anybody in the workplace. If you did feel you were being bullied at work, it is likely that you’d report it to your manager or boss. But what happens when these people are the bullies?

It is not always obvious to recognise when a boss is the one doing the bullying. Often, people will assume that their boss is just tough, wanting to get the best results, and under a lot of pressure.  However, bullying is always unacceptable and these are not excuses.

man pointing at another man during a meeting

Below is a list of behaviours that may indicate your boss is demonstrating bullying characteristics.

  • They threaten you. Threatening can encompass a wide range of behaviours, including: threatening to fire you, making threatening gestures, or threatening to physically harm you. This also includes aspects of intimidation, such as invading your space and towering over you.
  • They verbally abuse you. Verbal abuse is a highly indicative sign that your boss is a bully. This includes shouting at you, swearing at you, making snide remarks, unfair and unwarranted criticism, and making offensive and humiliating jokes at your expense. Verbal abuse can occur both in private and in front of others.
  • They question your abilities. A ‘bully boss’ could frequently question your abilities, skills, ideas, and accomplishments. They could belittle your work and decrease your confidence in your adequacy to perform your job role.
  • They undermine your work. As well as undermining your work by questioning your skills and abilities, they may undermine your work in many further ways. They may regularly change your assigned tasks (sometimes without telling you), withhold necessary information, give you more work than you can handle, and make overly critical and unjustified comments about your work.
  • They intrude on your privacy. Signs that somebody is intruding your privacy include: listening in on your conversations, watching your behaviours, opening your mail, looking through your possessions, or even spying on you.
  • They hinder your chances of success. A boss who is bullying you may deny you promotions and additional training, all to stop you from progressing. They may also closely monitor and try to manage all your projects.
  • They isolate you. Isolating people socially is a way for a ‘bully boss’ to gain control and make you doubt yourself. They may exclude you from social events, company outings, and even from mailing lists.
  • They spread rumours about you. If a bully is wanting to make you look bad, they may gossip about things such as your appearance and your abilities. They may also spread rumours about your personal life.

woman with her head in her hands at a computer


There are many reasons for why your boss may be acting the way they are. For example, if you are a high performer, your boss may feel threatened that you could supersede and replace them. However, this is no excuse, and bullying is never acceptable.

Overall, if you find that you are asking yourself ‘Am I being bullied at work?’, the likelihood is that you are. If someone is demonstrating the above signs of ‘bully boss’ behaviour, and treating you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable and intimidated, this needs to be rectified.


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