Helping You Cope With & Stop



Workplace Bullying: Do You Have Good Boundaries?

It is the nature of a good person’s heart to want to connect, as opposed to create 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 or ‘over-reaching’ worked for you so far?

Here’s What Happens:

  1. You go to work, hoping for the best. You are tentative 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 “treading 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, 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:

  • 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!
  • Notice the sun still comes up the next day, and try it again!
  • 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”.
  • Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.  Release guilt; it is unproductive, and in this case, the bully feels no or little remorse; why should you?  Will it really help?  Has it in the past?  (Perhaps, with respectful people, but not with a bully).
  • Begin to 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.  Bullies 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, a boundary is a consequence for a bully. Now you’re in charge, and remember – you’re worth it!


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5 responses to “Workplace Bullying: Do You Have Good Boundaries?”

  1. marnie munro says:

    I agree with your suggestions somewhat. However, in my situation I avoided the bully at all costs. I felt that I would end up in a verbal confrontation with her and then end up looking bad. My bully is my manager. I watched people stand up to her and then they would have their vacation denied, pay denied, days off radomly changed. So when my bully denied me pay I went to HR to have it rectified. I was not giving the bully the satisfaction of seeing me ask why. She gets a charge out of how much power she has. I did stand up to my manager when she tried to book meetings on my day off and only give me half a days notice. After the 3rd such meeting I went to HR. I then had my manager lie about how afraid she is of me and that I am the bully. I have been off work now for 15 months. I am slowly exposing how unhealthy the senior manager, HR, x-ray manager and supervisor are. I have the backing of my co workers, union and WCB. However, I believe that it is going to be another year or so before I can return to work. This is an excellent video on workplace bullying that I believe every worker should watch to understand why you are not getting any resolution.

  2. Deanne Coburn says:

    Valarie, your tips are realistic, honest and helpful. thank you

  3. Pauline says:

    Love this…”creating a healthy, strong and honest boundary….” has often been where I take a wrong turn in my interactions. This is going to be a mantra for my work setting.

  4. Karen says:

    I don’t think you understand what it’s like to be bullied in the workplace. I was bullied and the person doing the bullying managed to turn everyone against me with her lies and influence or fear tactics. They were afraid she would do the same thing to them if they didn’t go along with her. This included supervisors, managers and on up to the owners of the company. These bullies are out for blood and revenge and won’t stop no matter what. The person being bullied has no one to turn to, management won’t help. The only option left for the victim is to quit and pray it doesn’t happen again. This type of behavior leaves you severely traumatized, which remains with you for the rest of your life.

  5. Margie Davies says:

    Thank you for your information. I still feel nervous when I am at meetings with this person. As its always to me they address any questions. I
    have been told by my managers that its part of my objectives, to get along it goes under culture work place behaviour. My stomach is going over now as I think that I still have to talk to her with work situations What you have said and how to use these tools has helped.Any other tips please send me.

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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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