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What is Workplace Bullying?


There is a widespread myth that bullying only happens to kids and teenagers – this problem doesn’t exist in adulthood. Alas, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

A working place is the same classroom but with adult kids. The definition of bullying implies many cases, such as cybercrime or sextortion. However, workplace bullying has its unique nuances. Which ones and how to prevent them? Let’s talk about it.

What is Workplace Bullying?

Workplace bullying is essentially harassment of one staffer by another or a group. As a rule, bullying implies three types of people: aggressor, victim, and bystander. It’s worth mentioning that bullying consequences hit not only the victim but bystanders and even the aggressor themselves.

Forms and Types of Workplace Bullying

The following classification will provide a better understanding of how to deal with workplace bullying, its consequences, and its causes:

Horizontal bullying

It means persecution of an employee by their workmates. For example, a person comes to work, and no one communicates with them or says hello. Horizontal bullying can get a form of rudeness, insults, and hurtful jokes. In addition, workmates may deliberately hide information from an employee to frame a victim to management.


This type involves bullying an employee by the head of a department or the entire company. Basically, it occurs if the top management wants to get rid of some employee or if the manager asserts himself in this way. Bossing, in turn, is divided into closed and open.

  • Closed bossing: a manager implicitly “poisons” the employee. The manager ceases to notice the victim’s merits and work results ignores their initiatives and holds essential meetings without an employee. All of it contributes to the fact that a person has no opportunities for realizing their potential and career growth.
  • Open bossing: the employee is openly mocked and insulted. In some cases, the situation may reach the point of damage to a person’s personal belongings, documents, or even health.

Sandwich bullying

This one is considered the most severe form of psychological abuse against a person and involves bullying by both superiors and workmates.

It’s important to note that bullying is a lengthy process that can last for months. That’s why bullying should not be confused with the usual conflict or employees’ alertness.

Why and when does alertness arise? For example, employees need time to take a closer look at a newcomer to get to know them better, so this doesn’t mean that the team ignores the new person.

A conflict is, as a rule, a clash of different opinions or positions on one process, task, idea, etc. If employees have a personal conflict, it’s crucial to resolve it in time, not to let it turn into bullying.

Workplace Bullying Phases

By understanding the workplace bullying phases, you can notice and prevent it even at the initial stages. There are five phases of workplace bullying.

  1. Unresolved, ongoing conflict

As mentioned above, unresolved conflicts can develop into workplace bullying. Generally speaking, employee conflicts affect team chemistry, as the atmosphere becomes tense and unhealthy.

  1. The initial stage of bullying

A toxic atmosphere makes employees mock someone, play a joke, or insult. As a rule, they choose one victim to make them a scapegoat. At this stage, a person who is being bullied doesn’t understand what is happening, starts to resist, and develops symptoms of physical and mental health abuse. All of it fuels bullying even more.

  1. Active, systematic attacks

If the aggressors rarely make attacks during the first phase, they are fully activated at this point. Insults, hurtful jokes, and dirty tricks are based on the victim’s personality and accompany them everywhere.

  1. Victim’s isolation

The victim is not invited to corporate parties, team buildings, or important workshops, so the victim is completely removed from all important processes. Being completely isolated from corporate life, the victim does not understand how to move on. If they don’t receive any feedback, they become increasingly depressed and unsure of their professional abilities.

  1. Dismissing an employee

At this stage, the employee either quits or is forced to do so. It’s an obvious loss to your team. But the worst thing is – it’s not the end. A once toxic team will keep looking for another ‘prey.’

What to Do?

You need to take better control of the situation or hire a proper HR manager. An HR manager should always stay on top of things, prevent bullying, or, if it’s too late, stop it in time.

Don’t forget that bullying does not come out of anywhere. The team chemistry depends on the hiring process, management, and the company’s corporate culture. You want to ensure an atmosphere of mutual respect, attention to each other, trust, and assistance in the team.