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WSI Blog - Dealing with Bullies at Work

4 Tips for Dealing with Bullies at Work

We thought we left bullies on the playground in grade school, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case as over 60 million Americans have reported feeling attacked by a bully at work.  Dealing with bullies is unpleasant no matter your age, but luckily as adults, we have more mental maturity and clarity to deal with it appropriately than we did back in our grade school days. Here are 4 tips for dealing with a bully at work:

Assess the Situation

Is it bullying or just someone being rude/mean? It’s important to recognize the difference between a bully (repetitive/targeted) and someone who’s just having a bad day. The first step in dealing with a bully at work is to take a look at your own behavior. Are you contributing to the rivalry at all? If so, take a step back. It’s also good to remember that people have bad days and maybe your “bully” was going through something completely unrelated to you. If the bullying only lasts one day – it’s time to move on.

Stand Your Ground

If your bully talks over you in meetings, snaps at you in front of others, or talks to you in a demeaning tone – it’s perfectly acceptable to be assertive. Try using phrases like:

  • “Please don’t talk to me that way.”
  • “Let’s try to get this conversation in a place where it can be productive.”
  • “Maybe we should take a break and discuss this later.

Confront the Bully

This isn’t an easy step by any means. The next time your bully is swearing or getting out of hand, point out their behavior. Simply state, “You’re swearing right now, I’ll come back later.” By calling out their conduct, you’re putting them on notice. Bullies are only effective if you let them be – so don’t.


If your interactions with the bully continue to escalate, be sure to document each situation and seek help from your supervisor or Human Resources. It’s important to document the time, day, and if any co-workers witnessed the behavior. It’s also important to note how the bully is impacting the day to day functions of the business, and not just how they hurt your feelings. If you feel physically threatened, let your supervisor know right away.

At the end of the day, you can’t change a bully so it’s best not to give them the satisfaction of arguing. Try to mind your business, stand your ground, and take action when needed.

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