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Articles & Press Releases > Article 109

What is a Workplace Bully?

When I think of a bully, I think of a punk-type kid who pushes people, threatens to take their lunch money, starts arguments loudly, and starts physical fights.

When I got into the post-collegiate workforce, I thought a bully in the workplace was simply the grown up version of the punk-type kid. Instead of yelling at other kids, he yelled at colleagues and maybe even threw a coffee mug or a stapler across a room. Instead of threatening other kids and taking their lunch money, he threatens colleagues with the idea that he can harm the colleague’s career or reputation.

It took me years to realize there are many more bullies in workplaces across the globe who don’t yell or throw things. They use much more subtle methods to bully other people.

The targets of their bullying are regular people – from executives to clerks in all types of businesses who just want a decent place to work.

Just as the targets of loud, obnoxious bullies experience stress symptoms, the targets of these subtle bullies also experience the same symptoms.

The typical top five symptoms they experience are anxiety, inability to concentrate, lack of sleep, being hypervigilant in their work, and stress headaches (per studies by the Workplace Bullying Institute).

The actual list of symptoms is longer than five! Targets experience a weaker immune system and get sick more often, get heart palpitations, high blood pressure, and the list goes on.

Targets of subtle bullies report just as many stress-related symptoms as the targets of bullies who yell and throw staplers across rooms.

The coy, subtle bullies get away with their behavior because few people know it goes on. Their targets often suffer in silence for a variety of reasons:

  • Maybe no one would believe them if they spoke up.
  • If they spoke up, the bully might make the situation worse for them and/or look for a way to get them fired or laid off.
  • They might not realize they’re being bullied because their definition of a workplace bully is someone who is loud, obnoxious, and obvious (and this “bully” isn’t any of those things).

My definition of a “workplace bully” includes people who use subtle methods to bully a colleague, often doing it to only one or two people.

These types of bullies are everywhere! They’re wreaking havoc on people, causing high amounts of unnecessary stress and costing companies money.

Do you know someone who is enduring the behavior of a subtle workplace bully? I’m here to help!


Check out Glory's book, "Not All Bullies Yell and Throw Things: How to Survive a Subtle Workplace Bully" on Amazon by clicking here!

©2015 Borgeson Consulting, Inc.

Glory Borgeson, President
2012 Borgeson Consulting, Inc.

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