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How does hostility find it's way into a work environment?

Hostility invites unwelcome comments or conduct based on any of the following unique attributes

  • gender,  

  • race,  

  • nationality,  

  • religion,  

  • disability,  

  • sexual orientation,  

  • gender identity,  

  • age,  

  • or other legally protected characteristics unreasonably interfere with an employee’s work performance or create an intimidating or offensive work environment for the employee who is being harassed.  

  • conduct can severely diminish an employee’s productivity and self-esteem both in and out of the workplace. 

The Workplace bully

Bullying in the workplace is rampant and can take many forms, though it's often considered to be defined as any behavior that is unwelcome, offensive, unsolicited, or objectionable. It can be physical, psychological, or verbal. 

  • Harassers may make offensive jokes, call victims names, threaten fellow employees physically or verbally, ridicule others, display offensive photographs, or impede on another person’s work throughout the day. 

  • Harassment in the workplace might be based on race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, gender, nationality, age, physical or mental disability, or genetic information​


Symptoms of Bullying in the Workplace

Bullying in the workplace can show itself in a variety of ways, a few of which are: 


  • Spreading rumors  

  • Sharing hurtful gossip or innuendo with another coworker 

  • Yelling, name-calling, mocking, insulting, or ridicule in face-to-face confrontations 

  • Offensive photos or objects that might be placed on desk, locker, or anywhere else where individual is likely to come across it.  

  • Physical when it involves unwanted contact or gestures that are intended to intimidate or threaten the individual 

  • Withholding information that's essential to performing a job 

  • Failing to invite the individual or let person know about an essential meeting 

  • Threatening job loss 

  • Excessive monitoring or micro-management 

  • Assigning tasks that can't be completed by the deadline and setting unrealistic and impossible goals 

  • Interference or sabotage with doing job 

  • Treating individual differently than how peers and co-workers are treated  

  • Excessive, impossible, conflicting work expectations or demands 

  • Inequitable and harsh treatment 

  • Invalid or baseless criticism, faultfinding, and unwarranted blame 

  • Accusatory or threatening statements 

  • Humiliation, public reprimands, or obscene language 

  • Verbal abuse from yelling to swearing to name-calling to belittling, 

  • Physical abuse from standing too close in a threatening manner to throwing objects and punching; threatening to physically harm you, 

  • Emotional abuse from undermining a coworker’s work and credibility to keeping track of and reporting mistakes 

  • Character abuse from gossiping and lying about a coworker to purposefully damaging their reputation,  

  • Talking with other employees about individual’s competence, accomplishments (or lack thereof), and other personal business individual was forced to share for time off and other reasons 

  • Professional abuse with actions such as repeatedly finding fault with a coworker’s work publicly, talking over a colleague at meetings, loudly disagreeing with a colleague to the point of intimidating the person from expressing their views, or ignoring a coworker’s input about their job, schedule, and so forth. 

How does Bullying, Harassment or Hostile Work Environment impact the employee? 

  • Constantly chipping away at ones self-esteem and competence via belittling comments and criticism, bullying is characterized by a lack of respect for a coworker.  

  • Bullying's more subtle forms often cause the most psychological damage. 

  • The target of a bully is miserable at work and begins to dread showing up at the office. 

  • Dread about showing up and constant bullying negatively impacts the individuals’ performance at best. 


Bullying is responsible for:


  • Increased absenteeism,  

  • Lack of workplace motivation 

  • A reduction of employee job satisfaction

  • Increased staff turnover

  • A Lack of trust and team-building among all workers

  • Causing serious damage to an employee's self-esteem and their ability to contribute at work, in their families, etc.

  • Employee depression, physical illness, and severe trauma. 

Bullied by the Boss

A 2017 survey from the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), for instance, found that roughly 60.3 million people are affected by bullying in the workplace. Broken down, 61% of those surveyed were bullied by their boss. Cognitive bias comes into play and it comes to pass that some are seemingly more targeted in the workplace than others. 


This fact is scary news because of the amount of authority and control a typical boss has over an employee. He or she controls the job description, assignments, deadlines,  performance evaluations, raises, promotions, work environment, coworkers, and more. The boss is someone that an employee has to deal with daily, so there is no respite when the boss is the bully. In some cases, there is not much that you can do if the boss is a bully—especially if they target multiple employees or generally manage with a bullying style. 

Set Limits on What Will be Tolerated From a Bully  

Most importantly, once a limit has been set, exercise the right to tell the bully to stop the behavior. Rehearse these steps with a friend for comfort in responding when the bully attacks. 

  • Describe the behavior you see the bully exhibiting–don’t editorialize or offer opinions, just describe what you see. (You regularly enter my cubicle, lean over my shoulder, and read my personal correspondence on my computer screen.) 

  • Tell the bully exactly how this behavior is impacting your work. (Because much of my work is confidential, these actions make me feel as if I need to hide what I am working on from you, or change to a different screen which is a waste of my time.) 

  • Tell the bully what behavior you will not put up with in the future. (In the future, you are not to enter my cubicle unless I invite you to come in. This is my private workspace and your actions are unwelcome.) 

  • Stick with your statement and if the bully violates your space, move on to the next step: confrontation. 

Document the Bully’s Actions  

Any time you are feeling bullied or experiencing bullying behavior, document the date, time, and details of the incident. Note if another employee witnessed the incident. If you eventually seek help from Human Resources, documentation, especially documentation of the bully's impact on business results and success, gives HR information to work with on your behalf. The bully is not just hurting your feelings; the bully is sabotaging business success. 

If the bullying occurs in email or correspondence, maintain a hard copy of the trail of emails and file them in a folder on your computer. 

Coworkers Are Targets of the Bully, Too 


  • Note whether the bully pulls the same behavior with coworkers.  

  • Ask coworkers to document the bully’s behavior and any scenes they witness when the bully targets any coworker.  

  • If five of you experience the bullying and five of you write documentation, then you build a case to which HR and your management can respond on solid ground. They need evidence and witnesses, even if everyone knows, that "the bully is a bully." ​

Steps an Employee Can Take If Being Bullied in the Workplace

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