What an Employee Should Do If Being Bullied

It can often be difficult to decipher what steps to take if an employee feels like they are being bullied at work. Here are 7 things to do if you’re being bullied at work.

In 2016 it was reported that almost 75% of employees have been affected by workplace bullying. If an employee feels as if they are being bullied at work, they can:

  1. Consult the company policy.
  2. Talk to a boss or HR.
  3. Document the situation.
  4. Consult an attorney.
  5. Time it right.
  6. Prioritize well-being and mental health.
  7. If it’s not worth it, leave.

It can feel like there are not many resources for support for an employee who is getting bullied or harassed at their workplace. Here are some tips for any employee who may be unsure on how to protect themselves after experiencing maltreatment at work:

1. Consult the company policy.

The majority of businesses will have an anti-bullying policy that lists what kind or harassment is prohibited at work. Additionally, the company will likely have protocols on how to report any type of bullying occuring at the workplace. In the case that the company does not have any anti-bullying policy or protection, an employee should consult the manager or Human Resources department about their experience and institute a policy soon.

2. Talk to your boss or HR.

If an employee feels uncomfortable or unsafe to speak to the individual(s) who have been bullying them, it is encouraged that they speak to their supervisor or human resources department. Being open about the situation will allow the supervisor or human resources to best support you and discuss options for how to handle the situation.

3. Document the situation.

It is crucial that an employee documents any interaction they have with the individual(s) who are bullying them. This can provide valuable proof when investigating the situation with your supervisor or HR. Take a screenshot of a text, save email threads, and even keep a log of each time you are bullied at work. If necessary, all documentation of this harassment can be used to provide proof to the police.

Related: How to Prove Workplace Retaliation

4. Consult an attorney.

Bullying is not considered illegal in state law, but harassment is. If an employee feels as if the consistent bullying is increasing into a level of harassment, disclose the experience with an attorney and get their professional opinion. It is best to speak with someone who knows the law and can present you with options for how to protect yourself and your safety in the work environment.

5. Time it right.

If the bullying is reaching a point where the employee feels unsafe, it is crucial that the employee informs another individual and also their employer as soon as they begin to fear for their physical safety. It is never in the best interest of the employee to wait until a situation escalates to the point where they are in immediate danger. As soon as there is a pattern of this behavior and/or the employee suspects they may be in danger, it is crucial that they report the situation to their employer and if necessary, law enforcement.

6. Prioritize your well-being and mental health.

It is crucial for an employee to seek support for their mental well-being when experiencing this kind of mistreatment. Harassment can be detrimental to one’s mental health and it is recommended that an employee gets support from trusted friends, family members, other coworkers, or a therapist when experiencing bullying at work.

7. If it’s not worth it, leave.

An employee may be hesitant to leave their job for fear of financial and job security, but ultimately your safety is the most important factor of all. If an employee has done everything in their power to eliminate the bullying and protect themselves but is seeing no change in behavior, it is always in their best interest to leave. It is better to work for an organization that will ensure the safety of their employees.

What Classifies as Bullying?

Bullying is not always obvious, and it can manifest in more subtle ways than just typical school-yard teasing. Workplace bullying is defined by some as “repeated inappropriate behavior that undermines your right to dignity at work”. Additionally, in the workforce bullying can be complex, and unfortunately there are many ways a bully can harass an individual without a significant fear of consequences. Here are some examples of what bullying can look like in the workforce:


This can be classified as intentional social exclusion or an individual by another member(s) of the staff. This can be done by physically isolating them or even excluding them through social media and cyberbullying.


Intimidation can be verbal, physical, cyber, or sexual. Intimation will instigate fear in an individual if they do not comply with the requests or demands of another individual. This is not restricted to an up-down structure at the workplace like a manager to their subordinate, but can also occur to a manager from their employee or form peer-to-peer.

Related: Examples of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Reputational Damage

This damage is usually rooted in the spread of gossip and/or false claims about an individual in their place of work. Reputational damage can be done in retaliation of the failure to comply with the demands of another by way of “punishment”, or it can occur organically without a preceding action.

Aggressive or Obscene Language

This type of language can be inappropriate and harmful regarding race, gender, age, religion, disability, gender, and sexuality. This type of bullying can be used as a threat, with the intention to isolate, or harass another individual.

Related: Types of Sexual Harassment in California

Contact Us

If you or a loved one is being bullied at work, contact us. We’ll get you in touch with one of our California Employment Attorneys today!