Helping You Cope With & Stop




Think of a time when you were ignored. Think of how you felt. Hurt, sad, puzzled, stressed… Did you think, “What’s wrong with me?” or “How come I was left out?” Or how about when you were brave enough to reach out and ask ‘why is this happening?’, and were met with a polished answer from the person that left you with more self doubt and no answers?

Now think about being ignored, left out and pushed aside…day after day…after day…after day…This repeated ignoring is one of the worst types of bullying known.

Social or interpersonal rejection occurs when an individual is deliberately excluded from an interpersonal or peer relationship. A person can be rejected by an individual or by an entire group of people (mobbing). Furthermore, rejection can be either overt, with acts of aggressive bullying; or passive such as ignoring a person, shunning or shaming.

Being Ignored as a Bullying Tactic: Being overlooked can feel distressing; we’ve all felt this from time to time. Being perpetually ignored feels rotten. To the degree a person is important to you, or to the degree you have expectations of that person that are not met, the more pain and rejection you will likely experience.

Being perpetually ignored is a bullying tactic and it involves what might appear as slight brush offs to the target in order for the bully to gain the upper hand. Remember, when these ‘slight brush offs’ happen over and over again, they evolve from slight to deliberately drastic from their continual impact of isolating the target. Examples are:

  • Not making eye contact with you in a meeting, but making eye contact with everyone else;
  • Walking into a social situation and reaching to shake another’s hand but brushing by you; not giving you the same level of interaction;
  • Engaging with others in conversation, asking them questions, perhaps joking around, then being tight lipped, formal and professionally polite for appearances sake, but by no means displaying the connect-ability they have toward others, toward you.
  • Leaving you out of email loops, formal information sharing and informal information sharing.

Have you ever been the last person to find out about the holiday schedule or have you ever been going about your work happily and you see a flock of co-workers discussing something in an unofficial capacity, but you were not asked your opinion; you were not invited in the first place?

But Wait, There’s More: How the Bully Further Isolates a Target:Skilled charming bullies will quickly double up their social interaction and attention they pull away from you and deposit it into others in order to gain favor with others…against you. Has this ever happened to you:

  • You have friends at work and you see the bully talking to these friends; joking around, really connecting and you are not invited.
  • The bully starts to create social situations, even talking casually at work, but always with you absent.
  • The bully shares ideas, jokes, social time with everyone else but you. There is an event; everyone is invited except for you. Everyone else thinks you couldn’t make it, but you know differently.
  • The bully starts to spread false innuendos about you to this group, further isolating you.
  • People that don’t even know you, start to believe what is being said. Ever heard of ‘group think’?
  • These new people start talking about you to others based on what they’ve heard and think to be true.

Why is This So Painful? Rejection is emotionally painful because of the social nature of human beings and our basic need to be accepted in groups. Abraham Maslow and other theorists have suggested that the need for love and belongingness is a fundamental human motivation. According to Maslow, all humans, need to be able to give and receive affection to be psychologically healthy.

Psychologists believe that simple contact or social interaction with others is not enough to fulfill this need. Instead, people have a strong motivational drive to form and maintain caring and respectful interpersonal relationships. People need both stable relationships and satisfying interactions with people in those relationships. If either of these two ingredients are missing, when they could easily be present or they are present for others then most people will begin to feel lonely and unhappy. Thus, rejection is a significant threat. In fact, the majority of human anxieties appear to reflect concerns over social exclusion.

The experience of rejection can lead to a number of adverse psychological consequences such as loneliness, low self-esteem, aggression, and depression. It can also lead to feelings of insecurity and a heightened sensitivity to future rejection.

So How Can You Cope?
 Many people will advise you to ‘get over it’ or ‘move on’. Most of the time, people say this because it makes them feel better to say it! What about you? Your feelings are real; the bullying is real. It can be very difficult to ‘just get over’ being ignored, isolated and abandoned from expected social interactions.

But your big question might be ‘but why me’? Excellent question. It is not fair to be perpetually ignored.

So, here are my top 5 suggestions for coping with being perpetually ignored:

  • First of all, practice acceptance of the reality, not necessarily the behavior. The more resistant you are, the more pain and anger you will feel. If you accept the fact that you are being ignored no matter how good of a person you are, it will make it easier. Even if you don’t agree with it, acceptance is the first step.
  • Put a time limit on the time you devote to trying to figure out ‘why this is happening to you’ and then have something else you can focus on; this really works!
  • Know you are not alone. This can help one feel connected to the 1000’s of others who have suffered as well and to know that you are not being isolated because of anything you did…it has more to do with the bully. Every negative feeling the bully has about others is really a reflection of the negative feelings they have about themselves. What drives bullying? A need for control over another, rooted in envy. This is about the bully, not you.
  • Seek out a community or group that you can feel love, acceptance, kindness, generosity, tenderness and support. You might wonder if such a group exists. Try We are all in recovery as human beings!
  • Stay plugged in and protected. Keep learning so you are empowered. If you haven’t walked through the Bully Free at Work exercises and self-tests yet, be sure to do this soon! What gets measured gets treasured; you are a treasure; don’t forget!

I’ll leave you with this: some things we will not understand. Some things we will be unable to change. One thing we can change, protect and empower is ourselves. Keep protected. The truth will rise to the top and keep shining.


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21 Comments on "Being Ignored as a Bullying Tactic"

2 days 14 hours ago
I'm being bullied at work. I'm in an office with five others. My male co-worker and I were friend for 6 months, talking, laughing and sharing, we were all a big family. Then we all had off for Christmas holiday and when we returned, his attitude and persona change and he was ignoring me. I kept calm and confronted him and he got aggressive and raged about all these things I apparently did, that he's decided he don't want to take any longer ex: talking about my sick mother-in-law, making jokes, managing the assistant. So I tried to apologize and asked how I could change (I apologized to keep the peace and for unintentional effence or confusion) and he said he didn't want to accept my apology and from that day til now it's been one month of non-stop silent treatment. I've been nice and thought I was giving him a cooling time but it's gotten worse. He appently told the other co-workers his side and even rallied everyone of a group lunch that completely excluded me. Which makes me feel outcast and hurt because I thought this issue was between us (I haven't told anyone or acted differently) but now, it's the elephant in the room between me and my 4 other coworkers. The only one that doesn't know is the 1 boss and she's in and out. I cried all day today, I'm so hurt. My back story at work is I'm a top performer and this guy was bottom and the boss always uses my work as what to aspire to. We got assessed right before Xmas break and I think that has something to do with his change. He's now Mr. On-Time and I get all my work done now. He's redecorated his room and brings cakes and whistles because he's so happy at work now...while he's also bullying me and turning the others into a mob. I feel helpless. I see him and want to throw up. I sit quiet and do my work while everyone is laughing at his joke in the hall in front of my door. I feel like I want to quit but I have a contract and a work visa that I need to stay in the country. I live outside of the USA. My work is suffering, I'm trying to be a rock and get on with it but I feel alone and depressed at work. Do I tell my boss? When he finds out will he act worse? Do I ask him to stop? Do I talk to the other workers?
Bully Free at Work: Valerie Cade
1 day 9 hours ago
It sure can be tough when we do not understand "why" and I am so sorry you are experiencing this exclusion - especially when you are not sure what your next step might be. A few thoughts for you might be to: 1. Continue to study exclusion, being ignore and bullying. Be sure to sign up for our weekly message on our website. It can serve as a form of not only information but inspiration and implementation as well. 2. Assess who you feel you can trust at work and who you might not be too sure of who you can trust. Align more closely with the trusted and be "friendly, firm but not familiar" with the others. This means not sharing and even lowering your expectations of connection. I'm not saying this is easy, but perhaps know this happens to many people (you are not alone) and that it doesn't feel good and in fact feels unfair. If you could decide the boundaries rather than thinking some people will come forward, this will give you some empowerment. Reality of the situation will help you instead of hoping and waiting. 3. There is the notion of "why is this happening to me" - this makes sense to want to know. You (could) attempt to ask "have I done anything to offend you?" to one of the people ignoring you. Be sure to do it alone and not when they can scoot away. If you are standing and they are sitting - even better. They may or may not answer you directly - expect that. May you be protected!
3 days 11 hours ago
I am a teaching assistant and when i first joined that school i was a very pleasant and polite individual. The bully at that time tried to get me to gossip about the entire staff which i didn't, except for a few people who were mean to me at that time. The bullying really started when i took over her class and the children grew to like me more than her. She started gossiping and turning people against me. Co workers who weren't my boss were dishing out work for me to do and ordering me around. I just stopped interacting with everyone altogether and kept to myself.The principal was very ineffective and did nothing to resolve the issue. it's so demotivating to go to work there. i have six more months to work there. not sure if to stick it out or leave.
Bully Free at Work: Valerie Cade
2 days 14 hours ago
It's tough going to work when we do not "click" with others in a way that would energize us. Perhaps more difficult for some more than others. If you are wondering if you should leave or not, it might be an idea to get as informed as you can with regard to what is possibly happening around you. Studying "workplace bullying" what it is and what it isn't (but one can still feel hurt/sad/angry) might be a way in which you can then make a "great" decision that if you go there are no regrets and if you stay, perhaps there might be something you can do to lead the facilitation of a change. I'm not sure if you've had the chance to order "Bully Free at Work" from our store. It has a step by step process of making a great decision so that you won't look back or carry the hurt. Here is the link (just in case) and in the meantime, sending you support.
Bully Free at Work: Valerie Cade
8 days 14 hours ago
Yes, being ignored can be a bullying tactic and sometimes it is the "style" of some people to be less responsive. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to tell. You might want to refer to our article "Workplace Bullying vs Difficult People" in order to determine if it is intentional or not. Nevertheless, it can be difficult for those who are more responsive to be around those who are not. Here is a little video of encouragement that might help a little and in the meantime, know we are in your corner. Click Here
Kay Jaye
22 days 17 hours ago
The two people I sit between do not talk to me at all during the day. If I say something, I am totally ignored. If they want to talk they will engage me which is rare. I am very upbeat, but it brings me down and makes me hate going to work. I know one of them is being moved and I will be glad. I did not realize this was an actual bullying tactic. It makes me feel much better now that I realize that. They can go an entire day and not say a word to me, barely make eye contact, etc. I was training a woman and she noticed it. She said, "don't they ever talk." I said, "Not to me." She then said, "That would drive me crazy." I told her that I am not use to that other places, but it is what I get sitting beside the two people. I noticed that they don't talk with each other either. It is weird to me.I decided that I have to scale back my friendliness. When they engage I should not. I like my job, but often feel ignored by some people. It is sad that people who are grown act so immaturely in a work environment.
Edna Horn
1 year 6 months ago
Hi, nice article. I really like it!
Darol Dean
1 year 6 months ago
I always take the bus to work dailey I do get frustrated at time but I sacrafice my time going to work as I enjoy working there. This is a turn around what I have to say, for I have been an employee for 15 years in 2011 now it is 2013. what I mean by turn around is what happened to me in 2011 my 15th year at my work place I have been acused of bullying. Nothing has happened to me all these years. Not only bullying for on the paper it also mention I said "tick-toc". I asume what some of you are thinking; what's tick-toc? I am a quiet person a little fear in me. Here's how it started. This new employee has sasked my how long I worked there , I answer 15 years. " do I enjoy working there? have I thought of looking for another job?" she asked me. I took it as just talk. but then it has been mentioned to me again from the same person as time went by. I got a little frustrated but just went on to not let it bother me. But then came a time I had to use help for of we were getting busy, when she came in the area I hear her say "I can be in here and not ask for help." When I heard them words I had to step out of the work area go into the office I could hardly talk I had to almost speak with my teeth shut to control myself. I asked just talk to her and leave me alone, I tell the office I don't want her in trouble, just talk to her please. 2 months later I am asked to the office to sit down and read a paper, on it mentioned I bullyed fellow employees, said "tic-tock". the tic-tock still bothers my mind, it is a words a 5 year old would say. As I ask my question of who have I bullyed and what did I do. They tell me the victums I bullyed don't want their names mentioned, I think to myself if I bullyed them I should need to know, "refresh my memory" I think to myself. And not being told what I did. I am told by someone it is called a payback for when the moment I asked for help. I've been working there for 15 years and suddenly it happens. I get wondering who is outhere as I see other employees in the break room or in other areas. Who is it I wonder. It has been 2 years now and it still gets on my mind at times I went to the EEOC for answers, I'm told they poisoned my mind. Who's the one who was bullyed?
2 years 8 months ago
I never really knew whether what this guy does was bullying. It hurts all the more because I know what a nice person he can be. Basically we have a group of about 4 people and what continuaally hurts me is that with the other two he jokes and stuff and then with me he is super cold, not showing any eye contact, ignoring my attempts to talk to him. When I talk to him about it he bursts angrily, like really agressive and angry. The things he has done hurt so badly - ignoring me when we are supposed to work together, joking with everybody else, referring to me in third person as if i am not in the room. when ever i approach him and ask have i done something wrong he says no blabblaa blaa. I have often thought it is only me being sensitive and that he does not need to like people he simply doesnt like but everyone else in the group has realised it. it is horrible because one day hes nice with me the next day he blatantly ignores me - this is just to me! he doesnt want to stay alone in the same room with me and tags along with other group members who had to go and look for something. any conversation i try to have with him ends up in an argument. the thing is we need to get along because we are meant to perform a play together, yet every practice session we have is emotionally draining an often ends in tears because i feel like a bad person in some way :(
Call Me Brian
3 years 1 month ago
I have been with a company for more than 4 years, and have been constantly ignored and ostracised. Tasks that should have be given to me have sometimes been intercepted and passed on to others less qualified (or not even qualified) to do, and this has become more frequent recently. Sometimes these tasks that I can easily do have been asked of others right in front of me! For anyone reading this, take my advice: DON'T waste your time complaining to HR! They are there to PROTECT their company, NOT YOU! My complaints to management (even working my way up the ladder to the General Managing Director) have gone nowhere! The only thing that happens after this is that they get rid of you! It is much easier to replace a low-level employee than to replace a manager! What job do I do there? I'm the only IT Engineer there. The same thing happened to me also with a previous company, when I was in a different line of work, where the manager there wanted to give my job to a friend of hers that wanted to quite his job where he worked so he could be given mine. I fought tooth and nail to show that every allegation she made about me and my work was false (and I proved it every time!), but in the end the good ol' HR department gave her the choice of sacking me, which she did. Oh, and here's how: On the FIRST day of my holidays they sent me a registered letter telling me that as of that first day, my position was made redundant. How's that for nice...? DON'T EVER TRUST HR DEPARTMENTS!!! EVER !!!
Michele B
3 years 7 months ago
I wish I had known of this site last week, I was hired for a clerical position in a mental health clinic. I lasted only 4 days due to the stress of being ignored, isolated, rude comments about patients and one doctor who actually stated in front of me "this is so and so and she knows everything, and this woman (me) here knows nothing". I was floored, that was at the beginning of my shift on the fourth day and I only worked 4 hours per day. Each day at that job was worse than the previous day but I told myself to hang on, it had to get better. That rude doctor's comment to his teenage patient's father sealed my departure from that clinic. I went to HR about that office and was talked too as if I misunderstood the doctor and was over reacting and very sensitive. I handed in my resignation that day with a very sad heart but I have to much stress in my life with a hostile divorce and than I take on more stress with that job. I would assume they felt HIPAA was a joke....
mary f
3 years 10 months ago
Just found your site this morning. I'm finding mega info on the web about workplace bullying. I was fired Oct. 2010 for the first time in my life at age 62 by a bully boss. Had I not been fired I would have stayed and endured until retirement but it took being fired to realize how stressed I actually was. The relief I feel far outweighs the anxiety of being unemployeed. I am going thru this loss as though I am in mourning. First disbelief, then anger,a feeling of great loss and now I am working thru depression. I intend to advocate for the passage of legislation to include bullied employees in the protected class of harrassed employees.
3 years 10 months ago
My experience is like Helen's comment ' March 9th, 2011 at 6:41 am'. I was falsely accused of ignore, Then bully turns around and amps up social activity with everybody else. Its bitterly cruel. Theres more than one bully and its not the first time. Then I didnt know whats happening so I tried keeping up. Now this time I have shut myself off.
3 years 10 months ago
My bully situation was unique; so I can't reveal all details. I was a clerical assist person in an HR dept. I was well aware of bullying; encountered it two other times in different environments. My 'bully' had an office but I did not report to her/him (gender details might be too revealing) I was clerical this one had an office and administrator 'title' yet this one who came to dept 'just a few weeks after me' would do clerical work. Never asked me for assist (I conclude, that being new - this one did not know her job or why I was there) She didn't know how to ask; without seeming to 'not know' so she simply did filing herself. (this is not the procedure I was told at hire) I spoke to dept. head stating: "if so and so is maintaining personnel files as well, fine, but all accountability for correctness is now off me." New administrator stopped maintaining personnel files. This bully would enter in a.m. and say HOW IS MY BOSS today (to dept head) as I stood in same room. When 'the boss' had a birthday the first month for both of us being there, I 'stupidly' agreed to sign one card with me and co worker (one card signed by 2 in a 3 person dept? is 'cheap'... if there were 10 people ok; but 2? Now that I think of it; she may have had others sign card; I never saw card after I signed. Anyway, she presented card in my presence and then 'the two of them hugged as I stood by watching' / I didn't care if I was not part of the hug fest by the new co worker per se; but I saw this as very 'poor' in the social grace area. 2 administrators hugging inn front of 'the other' in a dept? Any comments? I could go on...but won''s been one year since the job ended / ended because of 'rant' in face as though I were a 'child' or 'dog' and not the first time. I ignored many such 'pick a fight' baiting to me...this time I verbalized to boss 'why that tone?' Dismissal was forthcoming a week later. I should note there is an ethnicity difference between me and the other new worker in same dept. This shouldn't matter...but I believe it does.
3 years 10 months ago
I worked for Timberland the boot company and was bullied by my manager, talking to Timberland HR, I that this had been going on for the last 20 years, Timberland chose to do nothing about the harassment by this manager. Timberland supposedly prides itself on (very publically) on being an ethical company that cares for its employees. Publically Timberlands message is clear that harassment is not tolerated. Sadly what I found out the truth that Timberlands ethics policy is nothing more than a marketing tool to trick the consumer into thinking the corporation is somehow better for the world and hence buying their product supports that model that a corporation can be ethical and profitable, and most people in the world fall for it. btw- I'm handicapped Want more information or if I can help =
3 years 10 months ago
I ordered your ebook today and the extra bonuses too. I printed them all out and have read a bunch already. It may be too late for me in my situation but thank-you. I sure wish I had come accross this like about 5 plus years ago. Long story short I need to turn everything around by Wednesday, well from now through the next Tuesday March 15th I guess, otherwise I am not sure what will be going on. Again I wish I had your hand to hold sooner but maybe I can still salvage something out of the mess by reading very very fast. I am continuing to read on but wanted to thank-you so far.
3 years 10 months ago
Thanks for this, I am at the moment being actively ignored by a 'charming' young woman who is so socially adept it is almost unbelievable! She can be very nasty but because she is attractive an very charming to everyone else it makes me feel that it must be something about me. However, I know it's not and I just ignore her back. I have thought of saying something to a senior nursing manager but I know that she is the 'teacher's pet'. What is the best way forward? I should mention that I am also attractive and intelligent. I am 20 years older than this person. What is really shocking is that she is a nurse!
3 years 10 months ago
I really liked your article you wrote. The one I received this a.m. I'm going to save it and I may re-post it on my blog at a future date. It is related to what I am trying to do -- coach those who are or have been through toxic or discriminatory workplaces. Your work has caught me eye. Thank for your email this morning.
3 years 10 months ago
Everything I receive from you is correct in my personal experience. I always am loyal to reading your emails Thank you
3 years 10 months ago
Hi Valerie, Thank you for your most recent installation. I have been struggling for about a year now with this precise issue. The bullying survey instruments were giving positive results, but the overt stuff ended at about that same time. . . a year ago. I was struggling to convince myself that being ignored, and the on-going “backstabbing” really qualified. Fortunately, this person is not my direct supervisor. I am wondering if we could talk about pricing for doing some consulting. I would be interested in one-on-one and perhaps some group presentations, if my boss buys into it. Thanks in advance.
3 years 10 months ago
FANTASTIC, FANTASTIC, VERY, VERY HELPFUL! I will use this in my high school classes. SO glad somebody has finally put this down on paper and is doing something about it. Your work is very appreciated and valued. Keep it coming.

Valerie Cade, CSP is a Workplace Bullying Expert, Speaker and Author of "Bully Free at Work: What You Can Do To Stop Workplace Bullying Now!" which has been distributed in over 100 countries worldwide. For presentations and consulting on workplace bullying prevention and respectful workplace implementation, go to

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