Workplace Bullying: What Does it Look Like and What Can You Do?

Workplace bullying can happen to anyone, at any time in their career. You may have worked your entire life to secure a highly regarded position, but a belittling remark or inappropriate and intimidating gesture can affect even the most successful person.

The impact that workplace bullying has on a victim can be all-consuming. The typical employee spends eight hours a day, five days a week at work. And with modern technology and the effects of Covid-19, the workplace does not only refer to the office anymore. For many, their workplace is their home – somewhere that is supposed to be a place of refuge and comfort. A safe place. This inability to escape bullying behaviour, even in one’s home, can have detrimental effects on the mental, physical, emotional and social life of the victim.

Intimidating workplace bullying behaviour is the desire to control another person’s behaviour in order to serve a personal agenda or professional need. While bullying often goes unnoticed in the workplace because it can be a slow process of emotional and psychological manipulation, there are signs that you can look out for to spot this type of behaviour.


While we may be subject to an occasional dose of the ‘silent treatment’ in our romantic relationships, ignoring in the workplace can be very difficult to deal with. This can involve a colleague repeatedly ignoring your calls or emails. If you’re looking for information or approval necessary to move on with a project, this ignoring can prevent you from progressing with your workload. For those working from home, this can also evoke feelings of loneliness and isolation and a feeling of being unimportant. For those in the office, it can be a very awkward and belittling experience to be in the same room with an individual who is knowingly ignoring you.

What to do? 

If you need information, send a polite follow-up email cc’ing a manager or colleague that you feel will support you. By involving someone else, it is subtly letting them know that you will not stand to be ignored. Book a meeting with this person along with others to work on the actions.


This can be a tough one because it’s important to know the difference between constructive criticism and unwarranted criticism. Take note of whether your colleague is providing you with advice and tips on how to improve. If so, this is constructive criticism, and although it can sometimes be hard to hear, especially if you’ve put a lot of effort into a piece of work, it is likely coming from a good place. If, however, your colleague is constantly putting you down for no reason and highlighting negative things about your work, behaviour, or appearance, this is unwarranted criticism and a form of workplace bullying.

What to do?

Once you’ve established that it’s unwarranted criticism, it’s important to shut this form of workplace behaviour down. The longer you let it go on, the more powerful the bully will feel and may see you as an easy target. Try responding to the unwarranted criticism with a direct question, such as “what do you mean by that?” or “can you offer any productive advice?


A culture of blame is common in many workplaces. This can create a very hostile work environment, where trust is often betrayed. A key sign to look out for here is when a problem arises, are your colleagues quick to point the finger or do they tend to look for a solution? If it’s the former, and the same person is often made the scapegoat, this is a form of workplace bullying. It can be extremely difficult to settle into a new role if you are living in fear of being blamed for a mistake.

What to do?

First, make sure to be very organised and keep note of the work you do so that if a problem arises, you can backtrack and prove that it was not your fault, both for your own peace of mind and to show others. Second, it’s important to let your colleagues know that it wasn’t your fault, you don’t want this to become a recurring pattern. Third, adopt a solution-oriented approach. Provide suggestions to solve the problem rather than focusing on who made the mistake. Not only will this show that you have a good work ethic, but it will also provide a good example to your colleagues who will hopefully see that the blame game does not solve anything.

Most workplaces will have support and advice available, and it is important that if you do feel intimated, reaching out and accessing this support is a confident step to make towards taking control of the situation and working on a clear plan of action.

Written by Louise Nixon, employee wellbeing manager at Wrkit