How to Prevent Yourself From Being Bullied in the Workplace

Bulling in the workplace can take various forms – some can be addressed to you personally, others can relate to work activities - and can occur face-to-face, by email, phone, letter etc. According to the Health and Safety Executive, the concept of workplace bullying involves negative behaviour directed at an individual or a group of people in a systematic manner. This kind of behaviour may entail excluding and ignoring an employee’s contribution, giving harsh criticism, overloading people with unachievable tasks, picking on someone and undermining a co-worker, unfair treatment and spreading malicious rumours.

A lot has been said about how to deal with workplace bullying, but what about how to prevent yourself from being bullied at work? In fact, bullies are clever, but you can act smartly too, by being precautious and proactive just to disallow yourself to be their victim…

Identify the potential for workplace bullying

To begin with, try to identify unreasonable behaviours within the company and address them accordingly before they escalate into workplace bullying. Be vigilant and recognise changes in workplace relationships between employees, managers and customers. If you see that factors such as job insecurity, role conflict, unfeasible job demands and unsuccessful leadership styles are likely to bring about hostility and aggressive behaviour among employees, report this to the top management and see what measures can be implemented to mitigate potential harm in the workplace. Be ready to submit your own ideas to improve the company’s systems of work, workplace relationships and leadership style.

Know what your employer can do

Just as soon as you start working for an employer, investigate if there are any formal procedures or policies in place at your company regarding the prevention of workplace bullying or harassment. Ask someone in HR if the company has a workplace violence program, how you should go about tackling disruptive behaviour and even reporting bullying. Familiarise yourself with the code of conduct that defines professional behaviour and unacceptable manners.  You can also consult your trade union or staff representative and figure out your rights when it comes to workplace bullying and what actions you should take to tackle it. Here are a few useful sources if you are living in:

The UK: NHS , Health and Safety ExecutiveACAS

The US: Workplace Bullying Institute,  Stop Bullying

Australia: Australian Human Rights Commission, Safe Work Australia 

Exude Confidence

With your body language

Confidence is the biggest enemy of a bully; therefore if you lack this trait, then you should start working on developing an inner confidence and projecting it. It is crucial to examine your body language and make sure it communicates assertiveness and positivity. Keep a steady eye contact, speak loud enough to be heard, use gestures to emphasise truths and have an overall positive attitude with colleagues that shows your psychological well-being is good.

With your appearance

On top of this, pay attention to your appearance and make sure you are sharply dressed and walk with your head held high and your back straight. By doing so, your colleagues will immediately realise that you are pretty happy yourself and you are emotionally strong, and this will put you in the path to being less likely to be bullied.

With your personality and overall attitude

If you feel inhibited to speak up during a meeting and you are generally timid to mingle with other colleagues, look for ways to become amiable among your peers. At first, do more listening than talking, and dare to join in a conversation that is already in progress. If you want to be taken seriously and valued, it is imperative to systematically contribute to meetings and raise your voice in the company’s blog, formal and informal discussions etc. 

Network and create allies

Bullies love to prey on individuals who don’t have many friends. As such, this should urge you to develop friendships with colleagues you get on with or have similar interests. Look for developing deep and mutual relationships with dependable people with whom you can sincerely share your thoughts, problems and other personal affairs. Make sure these people are willing to support you unconditionally in difficult times and defend you whenever your physical integrity or morale is undermined. As the author, Stephen Richards said “friendship gives us the strength to turn from lambs into lions”. The key here is to strategically form mutually beneficial relationships with key people at work so as to gather support from your “allies” and make you less likely to get picked on.

Mind your social media footprint

If you have a bunch of colleagues in your Facebook friend list, then think about which photos or comments you post and who is able to view them. Make sure to separate aspects of your private and professional life when posting on social media. Do not display naked photos, offend or badmouth anyone publicly, as this will spark controversy and potentially have people bully you about what you are saying. Play it safe, and avoid posting content that is likely to provoke or hurt other people’s feelings. Who knows? They might unexpectedly strike back and abuse you verbally or physically.

Preventing workplace bullying is key to establishing the conditions of a safe and healthy workforce and work environment. Nobody wants to feel intimidated, humiliated or offended; employees should therefore have an action plan well in advance to protect themselves and their peers. Make use of these tips to prevent yourself from being an easy target of a bully at work. 


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