Handling Workplace Bullying

Work can be a pain sometimes, but that doesn’t mean you should feel threatened or unsafe in your own workplace. In the event of workplace bullying, here’s what you can do to stand up for yourself.
The gradsingapore Team
Dawn Yip
Handling Workplace Bullying

When you think about bullies, you’d probably think back to mean kids and catty cliques you might’ve met and dealt with back in school. While it might merely be a distant (albeit unpleasant) memory for some, for others, the impact of the bullying can still follow them into adulthood and their professional life.

Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence. Not only is bullying one of the leading causes of work stress, a survey in 2019 also found that 24% of employees in Singapore had experienced workplace bullying that year – the highest percentage globally.

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying can be defined as any ongoing or persistent threatening behaviour inflicted by another person or group at work, which can include verbal criticism, personal attacks, and intimidation. It’s also common for workplace bullying to take more subtle forms — such as social exclusion, emotional manipulation and sabotage among others, which can make it difficult for the victim to realise that they’re being targeted. Although it’s generally carried out in-person, there have been cases of cyberbullying through social media and other communication platforms like Slack due to the increasing prevalence of technology.

In most cases, the culprits tend to be those holding a higher rank — such as supervisors and managers — within the organisation. However it’s also important to note that anyone can be a bully or be bullied. Notably, a poll by Monster found that while more than half reported being picked on by their boss or manager, 39% of respondents were bullied by co-worker.


How damaging can it be?

Being a victim of workplace bullying can hurt, and for many, its effects don’t completely fade away even after work hours are over. For one, those who experience bullying tend to not only suffer from increased stress and anxiety, but it can also damage their self-confidence and esteem as well. It can also negatively impact their ability to work due to the discomfort brought on by the bullying — ranging from decreased morale to increased absences from work — as an attempt to avoid their bullies. This in turn can further escalate to them resigning from their jobs entirely.


What should you do?

So, what should you do if you find yourself having to deal with bullies at work? While it can be daunting to do so, it’s still important to stand up for yourself. Here are a few strategies you can employ to help yourself:

1. Speak up

At first, choosing to ignore and tolerate any attempts at bullying might initially seem like the safer route. However, while there are times where this works, there is still a risk in staying passive and ignoring bullies. In response, they may then attempt to escalate their behaviour in order to get their desired response out of you.

Instead, voice out your discomfort the moment they’ve crossed your line when you feel safe and comfortable doing so. By openly letting them know that you won’t accept their mistreatment, it sends the message that they will not be able to get away with their behaviour.


2. Document everything

If you intend to make any reports to your HR department, having a detailed record of what’s been going on will come in handy when building your case. Whether they’re in-person interactions, problematic emails or even meetings, be sure to document in detail as much as you can about each incident. Should you ever find yourself in a position where you need to prove what happened, you’ll be well-prepared with the facts to defend yourself.


3. Make a formal report

Nothing can be done about workplace bullying if the company isn’t aware of it happening. When you’re ready to report it, it’s generally recommended that you raise the issue to management or HR. Before submitting your report, be sure to focus on the negative impact they have on your productivity, well-being, and morale within the company.


4. Just walk away

Depending on the severity of the situation as well as how proactive your company is about resolving it, there might come a point where you may have to decide whether to stick it out or to just leave; either by an internal transfer or resigning from the company entirely.

Admittedly, the latter can sound like you’re running away from the problem, and potentially giving your bullies the satisfaction of driving you out. However, think of it this way: if you’ve exhausted all your options with little to no results, there’s nothing wrong with cutting your losses and walking away.


Workplace bullying can drain the joy out of any job and can be difficult to deal with, even with all the right steps taken. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s something that should be tolerated, nor is it your fault should you find yourself becoming a victim of it at the office. After all, everyone has a right to a workplace that’s safe and conducive, and that includes you, too.