Helping You Cope With & Stop



How To Recognize a Workplace Bully

One of the greatest challenges a target faces is recognizing a workplace bully.  Many of us find it easier to excuse the bully (“He’s having a bad day”) or blame ourselves (“I made a mistake again!”) than to accept that we could be a bully’s target.  But until you accept that the workplace bully intends to make your life miserable, you’re powerless to stop him or her.

Some people tell us “A bully has all the power”.  It would be more accurate to say “A bully has more power when the target is in denial”.

Below are some warning signs that might reveal to you “I‘m being bullied”:

  1. You are continually criticized and made to feel “wrong”.  Even when you believe you have a good idea, a proper solution to a problem, a suggestion or comment, it is not met with curiosity or interest.  Rather, it is met with dismissal, put-downs or a total lack of acknowledgment.
  2. You are undermined or even shouted out, particularly when others are around to witness, or you are put down verbally to others behind your back by the bully.
  3. You are treated differently than others.  For example, other employees hand in work late or miss deadlines, but when you do that, you’re called on the carpet.  In fact, even when you are on time, you are still criticized for something and not acknowledged for anything you’ve done well.
  4. Offensive language is directed at you.
  5. When you need information, it is denied to you, although others have access to it.
  6. The bully sets goals you can’t possibly meet – or changes them, or wants the work accomplished sooner than originally communicated.  All of these are ways of keeping you off balance.  When you try keeping up, you find it impossible to meet the changing time-lines, and you are left feeling like it was your fault to start with.
  7. You’re expected to do more work and work more hours than others, usually without extra compensation.  It’s understood – tacitly or overtly – that you face dismissal if you don’t comply.
  8. You don’t receive credit for your work; in fact, your work may be represented as having been accomplished by someone else, most often the bully.
  9. You’re the target of sexually demeaning comments.
  10. You don’t have a clear job description that covers what to do and when to do it.  When you ask for clarity, you are told ‘duties as assigned’ is part of your job.  Job descriptions set out your responsibilities.  Without one, a bully can “pile on” the tasks.

Recognizing a workplace bully and understanding their behavior as real and destructive to you is like putting on a pair of eyeglasses to correct your vision.  Suddenly the whole world looks different.  You can see clearly and can make decisions based on facts, not excuses.  Now that’s the first step to claiming back your power!


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

11 responses to “How To Recognize a Workplace Bully”

  1. Bully Free at Work: Valerie Cade says:

    You have shared very valuable advice; thank you! Yes, contemplating the decision to leave or stay can be very stressful. Many do not want to “give up” or “give in” yet, one cannot push a wet noodle up hill. All the very best to you!

  2. Bully Free at Work: Valerie Cade says:

    Ah! Here is “the” question. It depends on so many factors. If you have no support (leadership = potential accountability as it is virtually impossible to hold a peer accountable especially when you disagree) then it is best to move to plan B – to understand what is happening well enough to be (less) hurt by the situation (a very real factor that can take away power) and to also look at where you do have support (friends, co-workers). If it is impossible to live with, the short answer is to find another place, department to work. There can be a longer answer and sometimes you can survive and work within a situation (i.e.) many choose this as they love their job more than the pressures they feel from the bullying or they care close to retirement etc. The longer answer involves some studying as each situation is unique. A good step-by-step system to consider is Hopefully that helps – both a short term answer and if you are interested, a longer term approach. Remember, the bullying says a lot more about the bully than it does about you and also remember, the denial of bullying is common in leadership because many times it is easier to deny than to defend.

  3. Bully Free at Work: Valerie Cade says:

    In response to your question about reading materials, feel free to check out “Bully Free at Work” either as a hard cover or an eBook:

  4. gale says:

    I would like reading material resources.

  5. Tori says:

    I feel like you . My bully who used to be my direct supervisor still works in the same department where I work but she was “de crowned” for unknown reason. I have moved on but I wish sometimes that she’s gone for good.

  6. josie says:

    the description of Susan is not different from my. I was looking for a sollution 4 years ago and started on google what shoul I do? then find about Vallerie reading. Since she was a nurse she know exactly what she was talking about . I followed her reading . I still working in the same place but the bully never stop. I wish they stop one day because I worked hard to get there being an immigrant ,slept on the floor ,do diswasher, worked as nurse’s aid for a period of time, and go to school to get that job .

  7. mel says:

    What is the best way to deal with these bullies, especially when HR won’t address the problem?

  8. Vanessa says:

    Wow, I experienced all the ten warning signs that I was being bullied. I had been in my employment for nearly 14 years. I’d probably been bullied for well over 10 years, but I refused to leave. It doesn’t matter how unfair it is, they have chosen you as the target and their aim is to get you to leave and they will, no matter what it takes and how long it takes. Not one of my 12 co-workers has ever contacted me to check on my wellbeing since I was bullied out of the office 2 years ago by my boss.I worked as a bookkeeper for a conveyancing and solicitor firm in Australia. I am now 53 and unemployed. My main regret is that I didn’t leave much sooner. I have since read a lot about bullying and mobbing and I didn’t know the extent of this cruel, unwarranted behavior. Many people don’t if they haven’t experienced it themselves.

  9. Susan says:

    For all those reasons, I STILL say that the only “good bully” is the one six feet under. Because of my Aspergers, I was bullied without end all my working years. I have found the idea fascinating of having an “underground business” called “Bullybegone” where the target of a bully pays me a fee to personally ruin his or her bully or arrange to have that bully “put away” once and for all. It is the ONLY REAL WAY to stop a bully in his or her tracks. My most recent boss was the worst of them all. She was also an attorney and used that fact to bully people. She misappropriated grant funding but got away with it because her father is a prominent attorney, and even the state attorney general is too afraid of her family to go after her. I left it to one of my co-workers remaining behind to inform the IRS, but they won’t do anything either. I don’t know who her father is, or what he did to have the state attorney general so frightened, and even the IRS reluctant to take on the boss’s family, but they need to know he is not a mafia godfather nor is he just going to have state and federal government officials “put away” if they nab his daughter for wrongful use of federal grant funding. I suspect her father is a major bully, and she thinks she is immune from any kind of disciplining. I’m sorry, but it is this kind of bully that needs to be six feet under. My former boss learned from her father that bullying pays. She pockets government funding that is to go to the agency where she works and no one will do anything about it.

  10. Maria Sherry Tan says:

    Mary and Valerie thank you very much for sharing this Bad Epidemic going on in the workplace.It is uncontrollable especially when bullying becomes mobbing.Their is no way out but the door..God bless you for sharing this article for us and your commitment to help those who have been bullied at work and for the government to recognize that Bullying needs to stop in the workplace all over Canada not only to those who fight for protection and won like in Quebec or Alberta.Pls help us push and have this issue Bullying covered in the coming changes of the ESA by the Ministry of Labor.Again I could not thank you enough for sharing to us this valuable information.God bless you more.

  11. Mary says:

    I’d just like to say that the situation in work places is a lot worse than many would care to admit. I have been working in the field of IT for 8 years now and have worked in over 5 companies. I have been bullied in every single company except the one I am in now. Bullies are everywhere and when you work in an office and office politics are ripe unless you run with the established clique prepared to be killed. Especially true when your working in highly skilled jobs like mine, it’s hugly comptetative and your colleagues are waiting to take you down.

    I’ve been treated poorly either through the jealousy of female co-worked or through being ostracized by my fellow colleagues. I’ve been held back and kept down and on the recieving end of bullying from management. I could write a book on the subject. You need to be more than good at your job to survive in IT that means having a very thick skin and in smaller companies being able to bull your way to the top.

    I am in a larger company now that has a prper office culture and even a HR department somehting that was lacking in my previous positions. It has taken me 8 years to move into a management role not because of my competency level but because the opportunity was always just out of reach. I spent many lunch times on my own being the butt of colleagues jokes excluded from important meetings and not being given the right information to do my job effectively.

    I spent miserable years in my field of work because i refused to run with an established clique or be used by management. I guess it was really hard emotionally to deal with it the sleepless nights and the whole discomfort factor that comes from having so many knives in your back.

    I was tempted to change career so many times thinking i just didnt have what it took not to do my job but withstand the office politics.

    My advice to anyone in It is dont work in smaller compnay with no HR department unless your willing to run with established cliques to get on. If your willing to sell your soul and your personality you’ll do well but if your not you’ll be fed to the dogs be constantly overlooked and bad mouthed to the boss then the managerial bullying starts. Unless you have a boss that likes you and can see through that crap.

    It is not for fools it’s a tough line of work to be in there is constant pressure for dealines and if you work in smaller company there is a strong chance the team will be runn and 200% meaning they’ll squeeze the work of 2/3 people out of you.

    All that said it’s solid work if your skills are up to date and you know what your doing you’ll never be short of work. Think long and hard about the culture your buying into when you accept a job and just far your willing to transform your personality to get by.

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.