Workplace bullying: identify the signs and take action

The effects of bullying on a person can be extremely damaging—in fact, both the victim of bullying and the person who perpetuates bullying have been found to be at higher risk for suicide.1 But while we typically think of bullying as a problem in schools and playgrounds, a staggering 40% of Canadians experience one or more acts of bullying per week in the workplace.2

Unfortunately, bullying leads to higher turnover rates and higher rates of illness in the workplace. Three out of four people who were bullied at work reported leaving their job as a result.2 One-third of people bullied in the workplace also said that it caused health problems, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.3

What does workplace bullying look like?

In Canada, about half of all instances of bullying was found to be perpetuated by a person’s coworker or their immediate boss. An additional 17% of bullying came from higher management, and 17% from people outside of the company or organization, such as customers.3

Bullying at work can take many forms, with the most frequently experienced scenarios including:

  • Using different standards and policies towards the victim than other workers
  • Ignoring the victim or purposely excluding them from meetings or projects
  • Falsely accusing the victim of mistakes
  • Constantly criticizing or picking on the victim
  • Making belittling comments about the victim at meetings
  • Stealing credit for the victim’s work
  • Gossiping about the victim3

What can I do about it?

If you are the victim of bullying at work, it’s important to address the issue. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to the person who is doing the bullying, talk to HR about the situation. If you do feel comfortable talking to them, here are some tips on how to address the issue:

  • Address the issue immediately if possible
  • Be prepared—consider bringing notes outlining what happened and how it impacted you
  • Make the goal of the conversation to address and stop the inappropriate behavior
  • Try not to blame the other person—instead, tell them how their behavior is affecting you using “I” statements
  • Instead of being angry, remain respectful of the other person
  • Ask questions about why the other person behaved that way towards you
  • Avoid retaliating

When having this discussion, remember that it’s important that both you and the other person are heard and respected, that both of you retain your dignity, are genuinely acknowledged, and can be part of the solution.

If your mental health is suffering as a result of workplace bullying, it is important to seek help. If your employer has an EAP program, you can contact them for help. FSGV’s own FSEAP offers health and wellness solutions for employers, as well as individual counseling for employees under our program. If your organization is a part of FSEAP, you can seek help from one of our registered clinical counselors to start combating the negative effects of workplace bullying. For more information on our FSEAP, visit