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Toxic work environments can be chronic or acute and manifest in various forms, including but not limited to:

  • Verbal abuse

  • Humiliation or intimidation

  • Sabotage of work

  • Social isolation


These tactics may be intermittent or persistent, resulting in hostile working conditions.

"The unwanted, unwelcome abuse of any source of power that has the effect of or intent to intimidate, control or otherwise strip a target of their right to esteem, growth, dignity, voice or other human rights in the workplace."  

Prof. Jerry Carbo, Esq.

NWBC President

Painting the Picture of Bullying in the Workplace

Bullying from childhood

Remember the biggest kid on the playground who wanted to play with a ball, so he just took it from a smaller kid? Or maybe you can recall the cool kids in school who would ignore you and never let you be part of their group? Today, adolescence might feel like ancient history. It might be years since you’ve graduated school and witnessed someone get pushed in the hallway or be given the silent treatment.

While we would hope bullying would end in childhood, the reality is that bullying in the workplace is more common than many of us realize.

You’ve seen it in the workplace

It's the boss who shouts at staffers and scolds them at every turn.  The boss with two very different sides: one moment, they're the picture of professionalism- leading a team or a company and garner success. Yet without warning, they are controlling, mean, manipulative, or even violent. It might even reach the point where you dread coming into work each day and become physically ill from the stress.  Ask yourself:


  • Is there someone at your workplace who makes you feel anxious, frustrated, or angry?

  • Does that person constantly belittle you, your ideas, or your work?

  • Does that person only focus on your shortcomings or weaknesses?

  • Do you spend your workday walking on eggshells to avoid upsetting that person?

  • What do you do when your boss has outbursts at meetings?

  • What do you do when your boss humiliates you in front of your co-workers? 

  • What do you do when your boss makes an unreasonable request that requires you to work long hours, and no matter how hard you work or how fast you work, you never even come close to getting everything done?

Bullying can, and does, continue into adulthood

In the workplace, bullying often involves a person in power, such as a manager or supervisor, taking advantage of a less powerful employee. By definition, bullying is an abuse of power by someone who is stronger — physically, verbally, mentally, socially, electronically, politically, or financially — towards someone who can’t defend themselves against the bully’s games or cruel behaviors. Most bullying involves isolating and putting the victim down and can involve many different forms. The examples are not exhaustive. Bullies are creative and constantly come up with new ways to torment their targets. The lists here are forms of bullying that have been consistently identified in the literature and research on workplace bullying.  


Interpersonal or relationship behaviors

The abuse may take the form of public ridicule, disrespect, overwork, overcontrol, including, but not limited to:

  • Teasing, sarcasm, name-calling, slandering, and ridiculing a person

  • Put-downs and insults

  • Getting in someone’s personal space

  • Sending nasty emails

  • Angry outbursts, such as screaming or swearing

  • Persistent abusive phone calls, voicemails, emails, or postings to or about another person

  • Excessive criticism, reprimands, and repeated reminders of errors or mistakes

  • Hints or signals from others that someone should quit his or her job without cause

  • Destructive gossip, rumors, or innuendo

  • Offensive jokes or inappropriate statements

  • Making up accusations against an employee

  • Unfairly denying personal leave or job training

  • Intimidating behavior as finger-pointing, physical pushing, shoving, slamming doors, or throwing things

  • Non-verbal threatening gestures

Organizational or task-related behaviors

Furthermore, abuse doesn’t have to be obvious and belligerent; in fact, it can be quite subtle yet as destructive as overt bullying behavior is the intentional sabotage of another’s work, including, but not limited to:

  • Assigning impossible deadlines and giving unreasonable workloads

  • Micromanaging and unnecessarily controlling an employee’s work

  • Having key areas of responsibility removed or replaced with more trivial or unpleasant tasks

  • Undermining an employee’s reputation behind his or her back

  • Unrealistic work demands

  • Removing tasks crucial for one’s job with no explanation

  • Purposely giving inconsistent instructions

  • Changing hours or schedules to make life more difficult

  • Deliberately withholding information needed to be effective at work

  • Blowing off accomplishments

  • Excluding an employee from important emails, meetings, or social functions

  • Pressuring others to not take advantage of benefits to which they are entitled

  • Taking credit for others’ work

  • Engaging in office politics in a manner that is hurtful, manipulative, and unethical

  • Going into personal belongings and supplies

  • Giving bogus performance reviews to convince the target he or she is a problem


Management often joins in to avoid liability:

  • Collusion to ignore valid complaints including bogus complaint processes

  • Covert campaign of harassment to ice out employees


Bullying can be repetitive or one-off events.

Learn more by watching this in-depth video:

There Is A Solution

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We're taking our army on the virtual road.

Movements are the tool for meaningful change in the U.S.. And we're creating a growing army of doers who say we want change when it comes to our psychological safety at work.

Action is how we'll move the needle on psychologically safer workplaces.

When there are virtual hearings and direct actions you can take in a state, we'll let you know so you can virtually testify (in under three minutes) or share your story or talking points with decision-makers.

Sign up for the national roster to be the first to learn about actions you can take to make a difference.

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