Is There a Bully Where You Work? Stop Workplace Harassment Now!

by Doris Helge, Ph.D.

Is there a jerk where you work? Have you ever worked with an honors graduate from Bully Bootcamp who intimidated, threatened, humiliated, or dominated other people?


Yes . . . and no. Although it’s true you need to protect yourself from potential negative actions, the key to your freedom from bullies is to understand who’s hiding underneath their frightening facade.

Myth #1. Bullies are powerful. Victims are wimps.

Truth: Bullies are wimps.

Bullies appear to flex mighty muscles, but it’s not because they feel powerful. Bullies feel so insecure, even when they are in high-level managerial positions, that they generally use undercover control tactics. Examples include spreading rumors or publicly discrediting a coworker in an effort to gather group support.

Myth #2. Bullies target the most vulnerable (the weakest) workers.

Truth: Bullies generally target very competent employees.

Bullies feel incapable of successfully competing with talented people. Therefore, they almost always try to sabotage the mental health and performance of those they think threaten them the most — the most capable employees. These targets are often also the most popular workers.


Reframe your perception of reality

If you are being bullied at work, instead of feeling like a wimp, understand that you are perceived as being so competent and well-liked that the bully is intimidated. Really let this truth sink in because this is one of your best defenses: Bullies are more afraid of you than you are of them. Otherwise, they would relate to you in a direct, collaborative manner.

Since bullies target competent people who are well-respected, you are perfectly capable of building your own advocacy network. Support is important because bullies try to isolate their targets. Build a solid support system of coworkers, friends, and family. As long as you are being proactive instead of whining, it may also serve you to develop an alliance by bonding with other workers who have been bullied by the same person.

Take steps to ensure your well-being

Bullies are shape-shifters. They will play the role of victim to anyone who will indulge their cover up. Although some bullies become explosive, most act in passive-aggressive ways. Either way, you need to take care of yourself.

Own your personal power in a safe and constructive way. Since you are not a wimp, don’t act afraid of a bully. Avoid unnecessary interactions without being submissive. Don’t let bullies know their behavior disturbs you. Since a bully’s goal is control and power, if you refuse to be a target, most will seek another more cooperative prey.

If you work in a company, carefully document situations in which you are bullied — preferably with witnesses. Talk to your Human Resources manager. If you do not receive the support you need, continue to document abusive situations until you gain a good listener. Always speak in a factual, non-emotional way.

If you are an entrepreneur, disengage from customers who bully. Say “No thank you” when business doesn’t feel right. At a minimum, significantly raise your rates for the extra problems caused by working with a person who could cheat you out of happiness at work.


Once you understand the reality of the bully who is hiding beneath a scary mask, you will get in touch with your personal power. You deserve a work environment that supports your peak performance. Take action now to gain joy on the job.

Visit and get more free tips, podcasts, & special reports. Sign up for the free “Joy On the Job Ezine.” Doris Helge, Ph.D., is an executive coach & a corporate trainer for companies as large as Microsoft. Download sample chapters from Dr. Helge’s books, “Joy on the Job” & “Transforming Pain Into Power” at & hear podcasts from the “More Joy on the Job Radio Show.”

© 2008. Permission to reprint this article if it is in tact, with proper credit given. All reprints must state, “Reprinted with permission by Doris Helge, Ph.D. Originally published at in 2008.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.