Helping You Cope With & Stop



Being Ignored as a Bullying Tactic

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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209 responses to “Being Ignored as a Bullying Tactic”

  1. Bully Free at Work: Valerie Cade says:

    Oh wow, yes, you’ve called it – they are trying to control you in order to get what they want – for you to listen and participate in their gossip. My best advice is to fully recognize this for what it is – controlling behaviour – and that you also have the right to decide what you want to do. When people pull back like you have done without explanation (not that you owe one), others tend to wonder why and then try to make up their reason why as they do not have any reason that makes sense to them. Why wouldn’t you want to hang out with them and gossip – it’s such good bonding! And the invited you in and now you have chosen to leave. They (may) see this as rejection and their gossip is self preservation. You (could) consider telling them one on one if if it feels better or both together why you left – you don’t have to criticize them for their gossip, you could share that you are trying to relax at breaks and talking about work is a little heavy for you – and that you appreciated them inviting you for lunch. That could help to narrow the gap of their possible feelings of rejection. You do not have to feel like you owe them a massive explanation, but a short touch base (might) help if you are up for it. Remember, this says a lot more about them than you. All the best in your new job!

  2. Victim.. says:

    Reading this article makes me feel better because there are people like me but i feel much more sad cause there are people like me, suffering..not knowing what to do. I have come to a point where every single minute is a stressful minute, day, week and months and I’ve only been bullied for 2 months.

    It all started when I just entered to a new company, fresh from graduate university 3 months ago. During the first moment i entered the company, everyone was really nice to me especially these 3 female coworkers who would always invite me to lunch together and always talk together. The only thing was, they like to gossip, every chance they could, about everyone. It was pretty exhausting but I had to be connected with them so I just listened along and try to fit in.
    The following month, my other coworker who was the same age as me and we were always hanging out started to joining them and thats when the bully start. I was left out in gossip, lunch, dinner, annual company meeting but one of them told everyone in the office that it’s a shame that I didnt want to join them to eat lunch together (wtf seriously psycho), emailed to everyone except me, company vacation, any question I ask they would tell me to just google?? ,glares, one of the gang scolded me infront of everyone, didnt enter my overtime work until midnight in the server for everyone to see, eventhough i worked 42 hours straight until I was sent to the emergency room because of exhaustion and hallucination,
    and yesterday was the last day of one of my coworker that i wasnt close with and he told me he was a victim of bullying too in the office…thats why he quit…..and he was bullied by other set of coworkers, so now there a two gangs of bullies in my office to make things worse right?..yeah…. bizzare..he told he was left out in lunch, dinner, nobody talked to him, the boss glared at him, nobody wanted to give him any task..just cause he was incompetent and slow abit and he has a hearing difficulty in which he wheres a hearing aid to help him hear but he was eager to learn who unfortunately nobody wanted to teach and got ignored…. i was so dumfounded to hear his story cause he never showed any signs of stress of depression, he always smiled at me and we sometimes jokes around. Turns out i was the only person talking to him in the office and he told me to be carefull and if i just can’t stand it anymore please just quit cause he understand how it feels…he said it was “mentally mental up to the point staring blankly down to ground for the whole day was the only way of coping”..
    now im thinking of quitting cause i am so effected by the bullying that i cant concentrate on my work and my performance is going down, making it another point for them to bully me… help..i should go to a counselling right? cause i cant afford to lose this job…

  3. Isabel says:

    I do feel that they are trying to get rid of me so this new girl, who started in reception 2 months ago gets my job so they can all hang out together. She spends more time in our office then doing her job. Every morning i think – what will i get accused of today. What will go wrong today?

  4. Isabel says:

    I started my recent job 10 months ago and loved it. Two other females started a week after me and I became very good friends with one of them. The other we found to be very lazy and not doing her work but after a few months we all worked well as a team. About 5 months ago a new one started and from day one I felt unsure about her. Within about 3 months I started to notice a change in everyone’s attitude towards me. I also noticed how she didn’t email me things and then Made a point that she had sent it to me 2 weeks prior, why wasn’t it actioned. This has continued and things have now progressed in which I am being excluded from conversations, I get ignored and alienated, consistently blamed for things and when I leave in the afternoon, I have to say goodbye three times before I ever get a reply. If I try to join the conversation, they simply ignore me and keep talking. I’ve started looking for a new job but feel so hopeless that these lazy cows get to stay. What frustrates me more is that they abuse my bosses trust by taking long lunches, starting late on a regular basis and long coffee breaks so in 8 hrs of work they probably work 5 and in the 6 hrs if work I work the full 6, mist days work back bc again they hold back in giving me work until im just about to go home and say they need it done ASAP. They even tell my boss off, which he apologies to them so often. Its a joke

  5. Hurt says:

    Enough!! 6 months ago my team started ignoring me, no hellos, no goodbyes, no nothing.
    The manager was making a comment about lack of desks and I offered to move. At our Christmas party I was ignored by someone I thought of as a good friend. Ruined the night. Now we have a team lunch coming up and even though I’m in the team I’m not invited. Makes you feel like &$#!.

  6. Sean says:

    I have witnessed and experienced bullying/mobbing behaviours in multiple workplace settings. I have watched again and again as the target is vilified through so-called investigative inquiry. The target is dragged through the mud for expediency and the appearance of resolution – to be made the problem.

    I have been told that I invite my own mal-treatment. I have been denied workplace processes available to others to resolve workplace issues.

    The current workplace issues are related to my intelligence, knowledge and, training for the position to which I am qualified. I have been told that I am too intelligent and that I should be doing something else. I have been in staff meetings [Human Service Work] where an individual blurted out that s/he does not want to know anything.

    I have been ridiculed, bullied and otherwise harassed for doing my job and even, for doing it well.

    It always starts the same way – the staff start to swirl, the doors start to shut, the stories spin, supervisors are muzzled, the freeze is on, the glares, the stares, the secretive movements and then the explosion… Another one bites the dust, and another one’s gone, another one bites the dust…

    The latest victim is now at home trying to pickup the pieces of his/her life… Wondering… what the…

    As I conduct another psychosocial assessment and contemplate the idea that work is a prosocial activity I ask myself; Really?

  7. Rosetta says:

    Uh boy. It is the day before a holiday and got left out of lunch by co-workers. I’m pretty solitary at work, but always make an effort to attend group lunches if asked. No doubt it’s a slight. It’s not as though I feel I’m disliked, but not including me must have some payoff or someone would make the effort to extend the invite. I’m old enough to not be devastated by this; but I still wish things were otherwise. Social norms are important; you don’t have to really care when you greet someone and ask how they are and you don’t really have to care if someone comes to lunch you ask them anyway, because it keeps the workplace boat level.

  8. Encelade says:

    I started this new job about 2.5 years ago. At the beginning everybody was friendly except that one girl obviously envious of my level of education and success in my career. But I didn’t care, it was just her so I avoided her, that’s all. Things started to go south when another female coworker tried to hook me up with a male coworker, friend of hers. He was much younger than me, with no education and no career in sight. While some “mature” women enjoy being “sugar mamas”, I am not into that at all. So I politely refused. The girl that was not nice to me since day 1 took advantage of the situation and started telling mean things about me. And since then, most of my coworkers ignore me and are mean to me, so she’s got what she wanted. I am looking for other jobs right now and I hope to leave soon.

  9. Pam says:

    An ex-boss sent out accusations about me to my family, friends, community as well as surrounding communities. Now I am being bullied/ignored by everyone and it does crush your integrity, ego and self esteem. My accuser told me that I would never be able to find a job around here as was going to destroy me. My consulation is that karma will come into play sometime in his life.

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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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