What Are the Different Types of Workplace Bullying?

Workplace bullying is harassment with an emphasis on physical intimidation.
A workplace bully may communicate with words that are designed to cause fear and anxiety in others.
It's essential that all employees feel that any harassment or other concerns can be heard fairly and without fear of retribution.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2014
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Workplace bullying is a problem in many regions of the world which is difficult to address because it often becomes institutionalized, making it challenging to identify workplace bullying when it takes place, or to take action against it. Learning to recognize some of the types of workplace bullying can help people dealing with a bully problem by providing concrete examples of bullying behavior which can be brought to the attention of a supervisor or a workplace as a whole. No one should tolerate bullying in the workplace, as it creates a hostile work environment and it will only grow worse over time.

One very common form of workplace bullying is unwitting bullying, also known as pressure bullying. In this type of bullying behavior, an employee who does not handle stress well takes it out on others, snapping at people, issuing curt orders, being aggressive, and emotionally acting out. In the wake of such behavior, the bully does not acknowledge or apologize for it, instead acting as though the behavior as appropriate.


Some workplaces suffer from serial bullying, in which one member of the staff bullies everyone else, especially employees who are new. Serial bullies can be found in a variety of work settings, and they may have a number of motivations for their behavior ranging from taking pleasure in exercising power over others to being afraid of losing their jobs. Serial bullies can poison a workplace climate very insidiously, and are sometimes hard to identify. Pair and gang bullies are similar, but involve groups of employees, rather than just one.

In vicarious bullying, people in the workplace encourage other coworkers to fight. In this type of bullying, the fighting employees are victims of a third party who has created or promoted the argument. Corporate bullying involves the creation of a corporate culture which is abusive, such as that seen in companies which expect employees to work 60 hours or more a week and create a stressful work environment which devalues employees and creates fear in the workplace.

Both verbal and physical bullying can be seen in the workplace, and workplace bullying can also take the form of cyberbullying. The increasing use of computer systems in the workplace has created many avenues for cyberbullying, ranging from posting humiliating photographs on the Internet to sending out aggressive emails over the office network.

Workplaces dealing with a bully problem should stress to their employees that no one should feel uncomfortable in the workplace, and that the best way to deal with workplace bullying is to bring it out into the open and confront it. In cases where the employer is the abusive party, employees may want to consider meeting together and appointing a representative to bring up concerns about bullying with management.


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