What is bullying in the workplace?

Author: Jill Gormley, Strong and Clear Communications

Bullying is any activity that is meant to diminish or disempower another individual and any use of aggressive, hostile, abusive or unreasonable conduct against a co-worker or subordinate. Bullying can involve physical threats, hostile or taunting words, or any action intended to interfere with an employee's work.

Bullying may be deemed actionable discrimination and harassment if it is directed toward an individual due to a protected characteristic. Bullying is different from ordinary workplace stress because it is intentional, repetitive, severe and enduring, often resulting in a pattern of abusive behavior. Further, there is likely a disparity in power between the bully and his or her victim.

Examples of workplace bullying can include:

  • Using intimidating tactics and threatening an employee's professional status;
  • Belittling and discounting an employee's opinion and humiliating an employee in front of others;
  • Making inappropriate jokes at another employee's expense;
  • Overworking an employee and making unreasonable demands and deadlines that set up the employee for failure;
  • Failing to acknowledge an employee's positive contributions;
  • Isolating the employee from work meetings or social activities;
  • Singling out an employee and not treating him or her the same way as other employees;
  • Retaliating against an employee for claiming unfair treatment, harassment or discrimination; and
  • Micromanaging and excessively monitoring an employee's work and not trusting the employee's work product.