Bullying at work

I’m starting to notice an on going trend  in my practice, unfortunately it’s not a good one.

More and more often people are presenting to me suffering with stress and anxiety as a direct result of bullying in the work place.

Often the bullying is insidious and it can take some time for the person being subjected to it to recognise it for what it is. Other times it can be so open and brutal it’s shocking.

However the bully presents themselves the effects on the “victim” can be devastating.

Many of my clients report that they struggle to sleep, lying in bed hour upon hour wrestling with worrying thoughts about returning to work in the morning. One client was so anxious she reported hoping for a car crash on the way to work so she could justify not going in!

Anxiety and stress start to creep in and people suffer physically and emotionally. The most worrying element however is the effect it has on their self belief. Although most people recognise the nature of the bullying they increasingly start to believe the put downs and taunts. The doubt kicks in and their confidence takes a huge knock.

Often bullying goes unreported. This is usually because the victims live in fear of not being believed and their own self doubt. Friends may encourage them to find another job but by this point they don’t believe they are capable.

Unfortunately their standard of work begins to suffer. This is not because of any lack of ability but simply because when someone is in a state of stress or anxiety, concentration and focus becomes increasingly difficult. This leads to mistakes, leading to unrealistic confirmation of the persons inadequacies.

I often ask my clients to look at the many times they have performed well, and to remember times they were appreciated for their work, whether past or present. I challenge them to justify why the bully is right and not the many others who have seen their potential in the past.


“Kelly” was referred to me after suffering bullying for two years at the hands of her direct line manager. She knew the manager was very friendly with the senior managers and therefore felt unable to make a complaint. All of her work was heavily criticized in her one to one meetings and in front of other staff. Her accent was made fun of and she was never allowed to have the flexibility in her work that was granted to others.

When Kelly first came to see me she was very tearful, she told me she was desperate to leave but felt she should go to a junior position as she didn’t feel capable of her job. We spent two months working together. I helped Kelly to see that her situation was not her fault. We spent time looking at her strengths and seeing the situation as it truly was. When Kelly started to apply for other jobs she was pessimistic and fearful. With some gentle encouragement she was amazed to find interviews coming from all directions.Kelly is now happy in a new SENIOR position. She also found the courage to make a formal report about her manager to ensure the same doesn’t happen to anyone else.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing bullying in the work place talk about it. Whether it be a friend, a colleague or a professional it’s easier for other people to see the situation as it is and that is it not a reflection of you.

Remember times you have achieved success and make a list of the attributes you have that led you there.

If possible make a formal complaint to your employer, if this is not possible then it can be useful to look for external organisations that can help you.

Above all remember it’s not your fault, no one deserves to be treated badly and the bully’s behaviour is a reflection of themselves and not you!


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