Helping You Cope With & Stop



Do You Have Honest and Strong Bully Boundaries?

It is the nature of a good person’s heart to want to connect, as opposed to creating conflict and dissonance.  When anything but harmony exists, most people at best try to modify who they really are in order to cope.  It is not natural.  On the other hand, we tend to gravitate to people who “allow us to be ourselves”.  So what happens when you feel uncomfortable and guarded around another due to their bullying or difficult behavior?  Usually, anything but peace and naturalness.  Here’s the good news…

You do not have to keep reaching out to a person who is not respectful of your feelings, wants, needs, circumstances or desires.  Question:  How has reaching out worked for you so far?

Here’s What Happens:

  1. You go to work, hoping for the best, scared and ‘off balance’, wondering what the bully will do to you today.
  2. This ‘wondering’ leads you to waiting for the bully to behave in a certain way.  Then you react, trying to minimize the negative behaviors, feelings and situation by ‘over-reaching’ – giving more than you’re comfortable with – just to connect.
  3. You feel powerless.  You doubt yourself and you are walking lightly in order to not upset the bully.

Honest and Strong Boundaries

  1. The above example displays NO boundary on the part of the target.  Note:  Creating a healthy, strong and honest boundary does not make you an unkind person; it makes you a wise person.
  2. Ask yourself – Do you feel free and peaceful, or do you feel like you are walking on eggshells around the bully?  Note:  Walking lightly or tiptoeing around the bully actually increases your chances of being bullied, as you display no boundary to the bully.  There is nothing that separates you from the workplace bully; thus the bully rules with over-demanding boundaries.
  3. What about your boundaries?  It starts with asking yourself what you really want.  Do you want to continue to react to the bully and second-guess yourself, causing you emotional stress?  Picture yourself receiving strength by deciding to separate yourself from the bully.

Here’s How:

  1. Decide and recognize what you do not want i.e. the bully putting you down in a meeting.
  2. Decide to distance yourself emotionally as the bully is talking by:
  • Not making eye contact
  • Reminding yourself this says more about the bully than you
  • Giving short, clear, non-relational answers to the bully’s questions.

Honest and Strong – YES!

Yes – you are honest with yourself in how you feel, and you are not second-guessing yourself while the bully is ranting.  Rather, you are keeping on your agenda, and you are distancing yourself – friendly, firm, but not familiar!

A Few Bonus Notes:

1.  Try it with one behavior first

  • Walk away first
  • Say goodbye
  • Do not stay longer than you are comfortable with.
  • Reply with short and direct emails, voice mails, and general conversation – Less is more!

2.  Notice the sun still comes up the next day, and try it again!

3.  Continue to add small but significant behaviors that help to create your boundaries – “Inch by inch, it’s a cinch; mile by mile, it’s a trial”.

4.  Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.  Release guilt; it is unproductive, and in this case, the bully feels no or little remorse for you; why should you?  Will it really help?  Has it in the past?  (Yes, with respectful people, but not with a bully).

5.  After a while, notice that, where you used to react to the bully’s demand (and agenda), you now have your boundaries and you stay firm – the bully has less wiggle room.

What is This Called?

Your new boundary is a consequence for the bully.  You cannot confront or connect with a bully.  They will only change with consequences.  You must be (and you can be) in charge of setting your boundaries – this is the only way a bully will treat you differently.  Remember, you’re worth it!


*Note: Your name and email will not ever appear, it is strictly used to prevent spam comments.

12 responses to “Do You Have Honest and Strong Bully Boundaries?”

  1. she says:

    The Bully sends others to Mock me by what I say earlier in the day or from what is on the govt funded camera system on my bus. Sticking out their tongues to harass, holding what I had in my hand, mocking what I had for lunch.

  2. Melissa says:

    This would be all very good advice if we did not have to work with the bully. The trouble with having to earn a living is that we are trapped. Many of us would not put up with a bully if we really were free to just walk away or even ignore them. Ignoring them generally does nothing to stop the bullying. They will even use being ignored or given a short answer to claim that they are not being responded to by the target whose work they are continuously disrupting. It generally results in the target being given a list of rules from a manager/ess or coworker which involve pressure to relate to the bully even though the bully has no real interest in healthy relations.

  3. Allie says:

    Hello Valerie,It has been about 5 years since I attended a conference you attended in the small town where I worked and lived. I have followed you all these years, hoping that I would be able to be strong enough to keeping working in an environment that was literally making me crazy. I agree with some of the comments about the bully coming back with more venom. I also found that my co-workers just rolled with whatever the bully was doing, which then added to the abuse. The final straw came when my boss put the screws to me, making my work day even more strenuous because of ‘our personality conflict’ while allowing the bully to literally call me names, tease me and ridicule me in front of not only my colleagues, but my MH clients as well. Then she started bullying my clients. Nope, no more. I appreciate that we can’t all quit our jobs and find other income. For a long while I couldn’t, and then did, even though I could have gotten fired for it…but at the end, I didn’t care. It was not that I didn’t care about my clients or the work I did, but I realized that I needed to go – no matter what. I waited as long as I could to quit knowing that I needed to know that I had done all I could to make the situation better for me, for others, and for my clients, and then declared my independence – on July 4, 2014 I quit my ‘not so cooshey’ govt job and have taken a year off to reflect, relax and write. Thank you Valerie for enlightening me as to the fact that I was NOT crazy, that I am a good person, I have good ethics and values and I deserve to be in a workplace that values those things. Sadly, I have seen it over and over – the good people leave and the mediocre get left behind. Anyone have any employment leads for a really awesome, caring psychologist? My heart is with all those who are still in a workplace that is not respectful, I send best wishes to those who are taking that difficult transition step, and woo hoo to the rest of us that are working our way to stardom! Sincerely,

  4. Julie says:

    I worked in a bullying environment for 12 years. I called and received counseling with this website and personal counseling on my own. Counseling helped and gave me hope that there was a solution. I was bullied by my boss and mostly by his secretary. Unfortunately there wasn’t a solution to the issue, HR called it a “personality conflict” just like the Bullying website said they would. My solution was to get another job where I am completely happy now. The person who replaced me in my old job experienced the same treatment (bullying) that I did. He eventually left after less that 4 years on the job due to this bullying. And now they just aren’t going to hire a replacement since they can’t seem to get along with anyone that they hire! Many of the tactics suggested on this website I used to keep my self-esteem, stay professional, and keep my job until I was ready to leave. The bully and his secretary were trying to make me appear incompetent professionally and emotionally and personally. Being aware of what motivates a bully and especially women who bully, helped me to be able to stay one step ahead of this team of bullies and use their tactics against them. The biggest question I still have is: why do some people get bullied and others do not?

  5. Shirley says:

    Midastouch,Having a separate income would be ideal! Bullying can be so hard to prove and often the target ends up leaving and employers allow the bully to stay. I would guard against reacting with anger or accusations to someone you suspect of being a bully because I’ve learnt that targets may then be accused of causing the problem. I feel that it’s better to always act respectfully towards a bully, yet distance oneself emotionally and have as minimal contact as possible, because if one gets angry and says “wait till I get the evidence…”, that might seem like bullying behaviour to onlookers, even though it’s due to being bullied first.Thanks. Great article and it’s really helped me too.Shirley

  6. talia says:

    It seems to me that the majority of bosses I have come across are bullies….that is really sad.There needs to be legislation brought in about employee and employer conduct with each other on all levels.Just like there is for examplewith the doctor patient relationship.

  7. Bully Free at Work: Valerie Cade says:

    Yes, certainly there are many right answers and the tips shared are suggestions. Thank you for sharing your ideas!

  8. Midastouch says:

    Valerie, this is one of the solutions. There are bullies with whom the first thing you do like not making eye contact and walk away. They feel victorious and come back with more venom. I feel the best way to deal with the bully keep him confused as much as you can. Like you too put up an angry face and say “I am coming back, just wait till I get the evidence to prove your misgivings” and then walk out of the room & submerge. This upsets the bully. Of course this is a temporary tactic. The best solution would be to have an income apart from your job so that when you “put down the papers” and decide to leave sooner or later you can always have something to fall back on…As long as US and Canada don’t come up with tough bullying laws its always “fight or flight” syndrome to an employee….

  9. Leah says:

    Excellent post. I found this site when dealing with a “bully” boss several years ago and found Cade’s strategies insightful and empowering. Mike, you are so on target. The bully is a different type of “animal” altogether (psychological deficits) and the havoc they wreak is so costly. It continues to amaze me how companies continue to turn a blind eye to the problem of workplace bullying.

  10. Sharon Burckardt says:

    Thank you for your article. Would like more tips on how to deal with family members.

  11. Mike says:

    Education and understanding that bullying is more than a schoolyard problem is the only way unions and company’s are going to minimize this very serious issue of workplace bullying.

  12. Jayvee says:

    Keep it coming, this is good stuff.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


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

© Bully Free at Work. All rights reserved: All trademarks used or referred to on this site are the property of their respective owners. No materials on this site may be reproduced, altered, or further distributed without Bully Free at Work’s prior permission.