Bullying in the Workplace


Workplace bullying is relevant for many employees.

Despite what many may think, the bullying is not always rendered by the boss.

Bullying incidents take many shapes and forms which can include peer to peer bullying.

Verbal bullying can entail swearing, sarcastic comments or relentless teasing.

It can also be an instance where a coworker manages to take credit for your work while also making you look incompetent.

When it is the boss, bullying can include shouting, uncalled for criticism and continual creation of expectations that have no possible chance of being met.

Bullying tactics can also be facilitated through various technology platforms. Being able to identify bullying is one part of the equation, but knowing how to properly speak up can be a bit more complicated.

It involves knowing who to talk to, and knowing the potential consequences that speaking up can have.

Hostile Work Environment...where nothing grows

Definition: What is Workplace Bullying?

Workplace bullying refers to unreasonable actions of individuals (or a group) directed towards an employee (or a group of employees), which are intended to degrade, humiliate, intimidate, or undermine; or which create a risk of health or safety of employee(s).

Bullying is a non-physical form of violence and this form of treatment can create emotional harm to any individual subjected to it.

Bullying is not yet defined as illegal and this is one of the primary reasons why it occurs so frequently in the workplace.

Bullying occurs four times more often than racial discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Documenting Bullying in the Workplace

Workplace bullying is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it is fairly common, but in order to bring about change, the bullying must be well documented.

Properly documenting bullying in the workplace makes your personal experience of bullying less abstract for those who need to weigh in on the decision making - whether it is the EEOC or a court of law.

Documentation on bullying also provides objective and substantiated evidence of what you are going through or have gone through, and builds a better case for you than if you rely on emotional appeals.

Detailed documentation on bullying will also bolster your claim which is why an accurate and credible paper trail is a crucial part of the process.

How to Properly Document Your Bullying Experience

1. Get Witnesses

Before you file a formal complaint or initiate the process, it is advisable to try and ascertain if there were any witnesses and what they observed.

Do not get that confused with their opinion of what happened because that will not help or be admissible.

All you need is a simple statement that corroborates the incident or series of incidents.

Once you initiate a conversation with a co-worker be sure to document these statements, along with the date and time and store it safely.

In the event that you are lucky enough to have a witness, it is best to have that conversation sooner rather than later. 

Forensic Notes takes care of the documentation aspect for you.


2. Document ALL Associated Events

Next, start to document additional dates, time, employees involved or events that are in any way, shape or form applicable to your personal bullying experiences.

Be as detailed and specific as possible because it is better to have extra details than to chance leaving out something that turns out to be important down the line.

Provide an explanation of why you think the bullying started in the first place, and why you think you were targeted.

Keep the log of events in a safe place that is outside of your place of work.

3. Thorough documentation of bullying incidents gives company management the opportunity to investigate and take action deemed necessary to render an unbiased verdict.

Authorities are likely to respond more favorably to a well documented file, as opposed to an emotional account of events that sounds more like interpretation and opinion from an overly sensitive employee.

That is not the picture you want to paint of yourself; maintain your credibility at all costs.

When it comes to workplace bullying, it may take much longer for change to materialize than you would like.

However, cases where workers fight back by utilizing the company policy and formally follow the chain of command within their organization have the best chance of seeing the abuse end. 

Bullying should not be part of your workplace, but when it is, be diligent about creating and keeping solid documentation.

Can I Sue for Workplace Bullying

Can I Sue for Bullying in the Workplace?

Employees can sue for bullying in the workplace if an employer is made aware of the work environment and doesn’t take the initiative to fix the problem.

If this is the case, the employer can be held liable for the workplace bullying.

However, if the employer is not engaging in the alleged activity or isn’t made aware of the situation, the employer will most likely not be held responsible for this form of harassment.

This is especially true if the employer has a program or process in place that allows employees to submit grievances and the employee doesn’t take advantage of the program or process.

To be successful in their claim of bullying, employees should keep detailed records of any instances of bullying to serve as proof and follow human resource guidelines if available.

Hostile Work Environment...where nothing grows

How to Report Bullying at Work

5 Useful Tips for Reporting Workplace Bullying:

1. Before Reporting, Evaluate the Situation

Spend some time evaluating the situation as a whole before taking any steps to report the bullying. 

If you have any doubts about the situation, or if you are not sure that you are being targeted specifically, find someone to speak with.

Venting or getting advice from a third party that is unaffiliated with your workplace is a good route to choose.

An unbiased assessment may help you get a clear take on things, and perhaps help make the next steps seem less daunting.

2. Document Everything!

Once you are certain that going forward is the best option, start to document as much as you can as explained above.

Any detail you can recall is worth writing down before you file your official report.

Dates, times, emails and locations should all be a part of your documentation of any and all volatile behavior towards you while at work.

Forensic Notes is really useful for doing this, and takes the guess work out of what to store and in what format.  

Contemplate why you think it started in the first place, and think about a potential solutions.

Certainly do not write or type any of this information at work where it could get into the wrong hands unless you are typing it into a secured web application like Forensic Notes.

How to Prove a Hostile Work Environment

How to Prove Workplace Bullying

In order to prove workplace bullying, you should following these 5 steps:

1. Use Your Company's Internal Complaint System

2. Obtain Evidence of Company Awareness

3. Take Note of Witnesses

4. Research the Laws Applicable to Your Situation

5. Seek Legal Advice

For detailed information on proving workplace bullying, follow the steps outlined within our "7 Steps : Proving a Hostile Work Environment" article. 


3. Consider Confronting the Bully One on One IF...

Before you take the documentation to your boss or Human Resources (depending on the dynamic of the bullying situation), consider confronting the bully one on one if you feel physically secure.

Be positive during the exchange, and do your best to remain calm and polite.

On the off chance that this person is completely unaware that they are bullying you, it is good to start off the conversation explaining that you are not okay with how you are being treated.

However, it is more than likely that a person will respond in a combative or at least defensive manner.

Dealing with rude behavior and irrational work demands is not in the job description.

Therefore, in this case it is officially time to report the workplace bullying to a higher power.

4. Determine Who You Should Speak To

If your manager is not the culprit, they should be the first line of defense that you report your bullying accusation to.

But in the event that your boss is the offender, just head straight to Human Resources.

The HR department should take reports of this nature seriously.

They need to be aware of workplace bullying to protect against low morale and higher employee turnover rates.

Once you head to HR, present your case in a constructive way instead of whining and complaining.

Remember that there are multiple perspectives to every situation.

Be clear, concise and composed during the meeting.

5. No Resolution? Seek Legal Advice

Lastly, if your company resolution system does not work, speak to a lawyer or other knowledgeable person who can help you.

Give them all the information they need in order to help you.


Court-Ready Notes : Forensic Notes