Why is the bully after me?

First and foremost, know that none of this is your fault and you don’t deserve to be abused at work. Nobody causes this to happen to themselves. But, one thing that makes this website different than many others about workplace bullying is that we will not agree with you when you say you are a victim of circumstances, or that there’s nothing you can do to change your situation.

“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.”

— Denis Waitley, Author

The first step to changing your situation is to understand why you are being bullied. Our book,BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, provides 11 reasons the bully might be after you:

#1: The bully is intolerant of the differences between you two

#2: The bully thinks you make too many mistakes or are an underperformer

#3: The bully thinks he or she can get away with being aggressive with you because you haven’t indicated otherwise

#4: You stand out with superior knowledge or as a top performer, so you are a perceived threat to the bully

#5: You are likeable, but the bully doesn’t like that

#6: You come across as shy or unassertive, so the bully perceives you as a target

#7: You are perceived as a complainer by the bully

#8: You are a whistleblower (and thank goodness for people like you who stand up for what’s right)

#9: You are dealing with past experiences or present happenings that are affecting the way you communicate and your world-view

#10: You have rationalized your co-worker’s behavior as acceptable and normal

#11: You are in a new job

For more information, read the book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work.

Take our assessment: How Assertive Are You?

Reporting bullying to managers or human resources

Those who have reported bullying to their managers have gotten one of the following four responses:

  • Empathy – Some managers respond with empathy and solutions to end the bullying. This is the right response.
  • Well-meaning assistance – Some managers respond with compassion but fail to take the necessary steps to end the bullying, or they take the wrong steps and make the problem worse. These managers just need a little guidance.
  • Indifference – These managers disagree that bullying is a problem, or don’t believe your complaint constitutes action on their part. They will turn you away and ask you to deal with it on your own.
  • Cynicism – These managers are convinced bullying isn’t a problem at all, and may even blame you. These managers will take some strong convincing.

Check out the blog post on the Civility Partners’ website – Case Study: Inside the mind of HR Professionals

Just in case you will be reporting to an indifferent or cynical manager, you will need to do everything you can to ensure your complaint is successful. That means taking the following actions:

1. Confront the bully. You MUST do this because your manager will be MUCH more receptive to your complaint if you demonstrate you are a problem-solver and tried to fix the relationship on your own first, before making a complaint. Otherwise you will be perceived as the problem.

2. Keep a FACTUAL journal of the bullying behaviors. It’s important for this journal to remain factual – emotions don’t belong in there because you will be turning this over to management. Also keep copies of any memos, emails, and other tangible evidence. Submit both the factual journal and other documents you collect when making your complaint.

3. Determine what outcome you seek from your complaint so you can make that clear in your meeting. Ask yourself what you want to have happen as a result of your complaint. Are you simply providing information? Are you asking the manager to take action against the bully? Do you want to transfer? Do you want the bully to receive communication skill training? In other words, don’t just complain to managers, tell them what you expect from them.

4. File a grievance with management. Understand that workplace bullying is only an emerging concept in the world of human resources, so you will need to be clear and concise in your complaint. Make sure you focus on the bullyingbehaviors and the damage they are causing the organization. Do not discuss how the bully makes you feel.

Check out the blog post on the Civility Partners’ website – Research sheds light on the minds of HR Professionals regarding workplace bullying.
How can you stop the bullying?

BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work offers exactly 23 tools you will need to end the bullying.

We have summarized a few of the tips below – if you would like more information BACK OFF! is available on the publishers websiteAmazon, andBarnes & Noble.

Acknowledge and name the problem

The first thing you must do is acknowledge there is a problem, and that you will have to find and implement the right solution to fix it.

Finding the language to describe your situation is also important because language allows you to understand your own reality, or what is really going on. Having the right vocabulary to describe what’s happening at work when talking to others, and to yourself, is an extremely powerful first step in the process of overcoming bullying at work.

Confront the bully

Respectfully point out that the behavior is inappropriate and hurting your ability to be effective. Stay calm; be professional. Try something like, “Jim, we have to talk about our relationship. I want you to stop _____ (insert the unwanted behavior here), Jim. When you behave that way, it disrupts the work environment. I treat you with respect, and I expect the same from you. Jim, starting today, instead of ____, I expect you to ____.

Notice Jim’s name was used several times. Doing this is a form of assertiveness. It usually gets a person to take notice and actually listen.

Also notice that we avoided labeling Jim as a “bully” and we took responsibility for our feelings. We said “I want you to stop” and “I expect you to” instead of, “You need to” or “You better.” Name-calling and blaming is a good way to get people to stop listening to you and make them defensive.

Reframe the situation

Reframing is a powerful tool anyone can use — whether dealing with a nasty co-worker, feeling sad about a child going off to college, or being upset after a breakup.

Reframing is a self-talk tool used to change the way you look at a situation; because the way you frame a situation in your mind will have much to do with its outcome. Your perception of the world defines what you see. When you take time to analyze your perception you will see possibilities for change and growth that you might not have noticed before.

In the context of bullying, you can go to work every day looking out of the “victim window” and having as your frame of reference a situation where you have no control. Or, you can go to work each day looking through the “strong-willed window” where you’re in control. Now you are someone who sees the bullying as a challenge, a character builder, and a situation that once overcome will make you a better and stronger person. Once you reframe negative situations around you, the possibilities for change shine through.


“The last of human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” – Victor Frankl, Holocaust survivor


Maintain conscious awareness of your body language at all times

When our self esteem is down it shows in our body language. Equally, when we feel great, confident, and happy, our body language shows that too.

How you feel every day at work is communicated through your body language whether you like it or not. You must be aware of your body language so that you can communicate confidence no matter how you feel inside. If you use assertive body language it will show others you are confident—and you’ll notice that with the assertive body posture, you actually feel assertive.

During your interactions with a bully, focus on your “battle stance.” Hold your chin up, lean forward slightly, toes pointed forward, hands on your hips or at your side, and deliver firm extended eye contact. If the verbal torrent goes on, tilt your head slightly, almost like saying, “I can’t believe you have the audacity to speak to me like this.” This body language shows others that you will stand up for yourself, and according to research, it also helps you develop the courage to actually do so.

Check out the blog post on the Civility Partners’ website for more information on effective body langauge.


“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” -Eleanor Roosevelt


BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work offers 23 tools to end the bullying, 7 things you must do before filing a grievance, and 7 solutions to offer your managers during your grievance meeting. Purchase BACK OFF! from the publishers websiteAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.