Sep 112012

How can I recognize bullying and what should I do if my colleague is being bullied?

According to a recent survey by, 45% of Canadian workers said they have felt bullied at work. Meaning that it is highly likely that we (or someone we know) will be affected by bullying at some point in our career.

One-third of people surveyed said they suffered health problems as a result, while 26% decided to quit their jobs to escape the situation.

Despite our increased awareness of bullying and its side effects, bullies are still getting away with it because the majority of incidents go unreported.

What is bullying?

Bullying can take many forms ranging including verbal abuse, the undermining of work, constant criticism, hurtful comments or setting someone up to fail.

Although definitions and experiences of bullying differ, if the behaviour is carried out with intent, and is prolonged and makes working-life uncomfortable it may be considered bullying.

There is nothing healthy about bullying. It is hugely detrimental and has far-reaching consequences including negative effects on morale, productivity and personal health. It can increase staff turnover, create lawsuits, and seriously affect an organization’s bottom line.

One way to recognize if a co-worker is being bullied is generally a change in their behaviour. They may become withdrawn, experience loss of confidence or have difficulty sleeping. How well you know your colleague will determine how you handle the situation, however, tackling the issue head-on isn’t always the best answer. Instead, try to get some quiet time with them saying that you’d noticed something wasn’t quite right and encourage them to talk. The best thing you can do here is to be a good listener and, if bullying is the root cause, offer practical advice.

No matter how tempting it may be to become emotionally involved, a showdown with the bully is not the right approach. Instead, refer to the harassment procedure in your employee handbook. It’s a great place to start, and from there you can create a plan of action and regain control.

If you or a colleague would like to talk about bullying, please don’t hesitate to contact me at or on 604 488 8885.

NOTE: If you are an employer, it is vital you are aware of the new bullying and harassment legislation in Bill 14 that came in to effect on July 1st (visit our site for more information on what this means for employers).