As a kid on the playground, it was easy to spot a bully.  He or she was the one stealing lunch money, pushing others down in the sandbox, or the ringleader of the group pointing and laughing at the little guy with glasses.  How easy is it to spot a bully in the workplace?

Research suggests that of bullies in the workplace, most are fellow employees, however, customers make up the second largest group, followed by supervisors.  But, they aren’t throwing rocks or tripping teammates on the ball field, so how do we recognize them?

Threatening, humiliating, or intimidating behavior can be bullying.  Interfering or sabotaging someone’s work product or workspace, or being verbally abusive are also indicative of bullying.  Bullies might hover over you or a coworker.  They might be argumentative and loud or demonstrate retaliatory behavior.  On the phone, a bully might cut you off, talk over you, or be especially loud.

Victims of bullying might find themselves being criticized, ridiculed, or sabotaged and set up for failure of certain work duties.  Victims are often singled out and isolated from the group.  This isolation may discourage them from asking for help.  It is common for gossip about the victim to be widely circulated.

As horrible as all this sounds, bullying is not against the law.  Repetitive and pervasive actions such as these may be considered to create a hostile work environment, which does have legal ramifications.  What should you do if you suspect bullying in the workplace?

Speak up immediately.  Go to your supervisor, or if the supervisor is the problem, go to Human Resources.  If you are the one being bullied, remain confident, speak up, keep notes, report any incidents to management.  Ask questions.  Don’t overshare, the fewer involved, the better for everyone.  Lastly, seek professional help, if necessary.

We may have outgrown the sandbox, but bullies can still be up to their old tricks of intimidation and threatening behavior.  Take a stand to help eradicate bullying behavior from your workplace.

For more in-depth information check out UniqueHR’s online training:  How to Prevent and Respond to Bullying at Work.