Some Jerks Don’t Grow Out of It: 10 Tips for Handling an Office Bully

Some Jerks Don’t Grow Out of It: 10 Tips for Handling an Office Bully

We all know about bullies in the schoolyard, but grownups can be bullies too. Here are 10 tips that can help you if you are dealing with an Office Bully.


1. Keep a journal of events.

Keep a record of the things the bully does and says to you. Include dates, names of witnesses, what happened, and what was said, in as much detail as possible. Make sure you stick to the facts. This will help you establish that there is a pattern of bullying.


2. Keep copies of communication.

Keep copies of any harassing emails, memos, texts, or voicemails the bully sends to you. This evidence can help you establish that there is a pattern of bullying.


3. Keep copies of performance reviews or evaluations and continue to do your job as best you can.

Your bully may try to undermine your work, or your reputation, with other coworkers. Evidence of positive performance will help make it more difficult for them to do so.


4. Confront the bully.

If you feel safe doing so, consider talking directly to the person who is bullying you. Describe the specific behaviour you would like the bully to stop. Be calm, clear and firm. Follow up the conversation with an email reviewing what the two of you discussed. Save the email. If it makes you feel more comfortable, you may consider having a witness with you when you speak to the bully.


5. Avoid being alone with the bully.

If you can, avoid being alone with the bully. It will be more difficult for them to bully you when others are around, and if they do, there will be witnesses to the behaviour.


6. Stay connected with other coworkers.

The bully may try to isolate you from other coworkers to make it easier to harass you. Do your best to stay connected with your coworkers.


7. Resist the temptation to retaliate.

Though it is very tempting, retaliation may backfire. Bullies are usually skilled at manipulating people and may use your retaliation to make it look like you are the one starting things.


8. Talk with your supervisor or your supervisor’s supervisor.

Don’t suffer in silence. Talk to your supervisor and let them know what is happening. It is their responsibility to ensure you have a safe workplace. Use the evidence of your journal of events and saved communication to back up your complaint.

If your supervisor does not deal with the situation, talk to the next person in charge and tell them what is happening.


9.  If you have one, talk with your human resources department or union representative.

If your supervisors do not deal with the situation, you may be able to turn to your company’s human resources department. If you are part of a union, you can find support from your union representative. People in these positions can provide support and ensure the situation is dealt with according to your company’s policies or your collective agreement.


10. File a complaint.


If the harassment falls under one of the protected grounds listed in the Alberta Human Rights Act, you can file a formal complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The protected grounds are race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, gender identity, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin (where you were born), marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation.

Alberta’s occupational health and safety laws also require employers and supervisors to make sure workers do not experience or participate in harassment or violence at the work site. You can file a complaint with Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety office.

Last updated: September 2019




All of the materials on this page were funded by the Alberta Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund (HREMF). This project was a result of a research project funded by HREMF. The research report is available here.

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