Psychotherapy and Psychological Assessment
Phone: 973.734.0780

Adult Bullying


Research has shown that on average, 20% of adults will experience some form of bullying at the work place. For those who are employed it can mean spending 25 - 60 hours in a hostile work environment. Bullying is different than conflict or constructive criticism. It is persistent, hostile, and focuses on an individual rather than a task. The individual typically feels powerless in this situation.

Here are some examples of workplace bullying:

  • Coworkers leaving the area because you enter
  • Being yelled at or shouted at
  • Being the victim of cruel pranks
  • Someone interfering with or sabotaging your work
  • Someone spreading rumors about you
  • Being ignored
  • Others arriving late for a meeting you called
  • Being treated rudely or disrespectfully

Many of these situations may seem obvious as they are overt types of bullying. Other situations can be more subtle and become chronic:

  • Work contributions being ignored
  • Not being given praise either publically or privately
  • Being given more work than peers
  • Consistently being the first to work and the last to leave
  • Others avoid your requests for help
  • Being excluded from team meetings

There are a variety of reasons for why work place bullying may occur. 1) An individual may have a history of being a bully or having been a victim. 2) A highly competitive work environment can promote aggressive behavior. 3) The workplace culture may tolerate, or even reward negative behavior.

When individuals spend more time in a hostile work environment than at home, stress can be personally and professionally devastating. Some of these stress symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic Attacks
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome (PSTD)
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Sleeplessness
  • Recurring Nightmares

Helping yourself in these situations can feel daunting and following words of advice like “ignore it’ or, “don’t pay any attention” can be incredibly difficult to do. When a situation has gone on for a while it’s hard to ‘switch’ into different behavior. Sometimes the workplace can mimic family dynamics.

One way of effecting change is to notice how others respond to the bully. In order to do this it’s important to create emotional distance - as if watching TV. Notice the behavior of the bully with other coworkers. What seems to motivate the bully’s behavior? You can ask others how they have dealt with or managed similar situations. If the bullying persists, it can be reported to your Human Resources Department. You can seek the services of a mental health professional or trusted spiritual advisor. It’s important to keep notes on bullying behavior. These notes are objective observations, not emotional ones and should include dates, place and names. Documenting abuse as it happens will help you remember details and will better enable you to report it to a supervisor. It is also important to avoid sharing details with other coworkers as this might lead to office gossip.

Most importantly, talk with those individuals you trust outside of the workplace (family, friend, or counselor). They can provide a perspective and perhaps some temporary relief as you begin to deal with your problem.