Bullying isn’t just a schoolyard phenomenon. As reported by the Workplace Bullying Institute, as many as 60 millions Americans are affected by bullies at work each year. (And the very existence of such an institute, of course, speaks volumes.)
Not all bullies come in the same form, however, and many acts of bullying aren’t immediately obvious. Below, we’ve rounded up some of the less-than direct ways that bullying is practiced in workplaces. If any of these ring true of your experience with a coworker, it’s possible that you’re working with a discreet bully.
1. Your colleague exhibits negative body language or facial expressions when you speak.
Rather than say explicitly threatening or derogatory things, a more subtle bully understands the effectiveness of, say, a strategically timed eyeroll.
2. They diminish the significance of your contributions or input.
Being actively dismissive of someone’s work or ideas is a form of bullying that can be especially insidious. That’s because the bully can always hide behind the notion that they’re simply discussing the work at hand — in other words, that their commentary “isn’t personal.”
3. They have mood swings, and seem to weaponize them against you.
Against an overall life backdrop like this current one, we can’t expect our coworkers to be cheery and chipper 100% of the time. But if a coworker seems unable to keep a lid on their frustration and regularly unleashes anger on you, then afterward expects your empathy because “life is tough right now,” that isn’t professional or okay.
4. They hold you to unrealistically high standards.
If your colleague is all “constructive feedback” and no praise for the work you’re doing — and makes a point of voicing that feedback in forums that others are a part of — their intentions may not actually be to help.
5. They take credit for your work.
It's easy to want to give folks the benefit of the doubt here — to an extent. If someone is enjoying the limelight for work you did, it’s better to have a conversation with them about this sooner rather than later. If it was an honest mistake, they’ll want to correct it and ensure that you get proper recognition. If it happens again, though, you’ll know they’re taking credit on purpose.
6. They talk over you in meetings.
If you’re regularly interrupted by a coworker, it could be due to a lack of self-awareness on their part. It could also be an intentional act designed to undermine you or discourage you from fully participating. Either way, it isn’t okay.
7. They withhold relevant information from you.
Whether you’re being kept out of the loop on a project or virtual get-togethers are being planned without you, secrecy is a go-to tactic of office bullies.
8. They micromanage you.
Micromanagement isn’t just an annoying managerial habit. It can also be a form of bullying, especially if you notice that you’re being micromanaged to an extent that others aren’t.
9. They make it hard for you to achieve work-life balance, or make you feel bad for wanting to.
If a colleague is going out of their way to ping you after hours or to publicly request updates or results from you in a group forum before you’ve reasonably had time to achieve them, their underlying message may be: I don’t think you’re working as hard as me.