Dealing with Bully Coworkers: 14 Ways to Spot a Business Bully


If you aren’t dealing with bully coworkers currently, you probably will be very soon. Four out of five of us will experience one or more coworkers who bully or backstab (or at least attempt it).

In all walks of life, there are people who pull time away in political maneuvering, grabbing resources, and creating distractions. If left unchecked, these people can get your eyes watering.

Dealing with Bully Coworkers: 14 Ways to Spot a Business Bully

  1. They secretly present your ideas as theirs.
  2. They take credit for your work to help them get ahead.
  3. They attempt character assassination.
  4. They provide you misleading information to their own benefit.
  5. They step over people, you included.
  6. They fabricate to try to save themselves.
  7. They endeavor to bring you down with disrespect.
  8. They create conflicts of interest.
  9. They try to trick you into badmouthing the company.
  10. They share private peer conversations.
  11. They go over your head and behind your back.
  12. They work to get your job away from you.
  13. They disassociate from you after you help them.
  14. They undermine you with micro-inequities, such as not returning phone calls and generally make you feel, as one CEO put it, like “a sharpened instrument is being eased into the fleshy portion of your body.”

How To Handle Coworkers who Bully

Do I have an answer to dealing with these people? Unfortunately, it’s not a simple process.

Make Sure You Have the Whole Story

Ask questions! Do not rely on hearsay as to whether the bullying is really happening. If you confront a situation that doesn’t exist, you run the risk of being the bully.

Communicate Expectations Clearly

Address the bullying early and privately. Make it very clear how you want the behavior to stop and how you want any damage corrected. (You may not get it, but unless you ask you definitely won’t.)

Keep Your Eyes Open for Change

Just because you addressed the situation doesn’t mean you’ve resolved the issue. Watch for more of the egregious behavior. If you see your coworker continue the bullying behavior, elevate your response to an appropriate manager and include the bully in the conversation.

Do a Self-Check

Perhaps one of the most important things you can do after reading this list is to make sure YOU don’t do any of these things to others! Bullying creates bullies. Make sure you are not contributing to the problem.

If you are lucky, you will be the one in five who has no experience dealing with bully coworkers. But if you are one of the other four, knowing how to identify and calmly confront your coworker who bullies will not only save you time and emotional energy, but also create a company culture that is safe and productive.

Ready to be a more effective leader?