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What Is Workplace Harassment?

Workplace harassment or office bullying is more classy than ordinary bullying bec. the objective is defined before the aggression starts.

Office bullying or workplace bullying is similar to school¬†bullying but not the same. ¬†In some cases, it’s called workplace harassment because in some countries, bullying incidents are referred to minors and harassment to adults. In the Philippines, we use bullying for both minors and adults.

Traditional bullying is similar to workplace bullying in the sense that the aggressor use power towards it’s victim, but that’s where the similarity ends.

READ: Help.. My Office mates are Harassing Me!


Office bullying or harassment is more classy in the sense that the objective is defined before the aggression starts. The aggression, though obviously felt by the victim, is carefully executed by the aggressor,  so as not to be considered a violation of  the company code of conduct.

Sonnie giving a talk about office bullying or workplace harrassment


Workplace harassment is not office politics, though in some cases, an element of bullying is present when an employee is politicking.¬†It is, likewise, considered ¬†a “normal” work hazard by many, thus, encouraging a culture of bullying.

READ: What to do when scolded by your boss


Elements of Workplace Harassment


  • Use of power
    Power is derived both from formal & informal sources. Position titles are the formal source  while the clout or influence of some employee w/o formal leadership position is an informal source.
  • Intention is to control
    Use of power is meant to control you, and lead you towards their objective (i.e. conform to their wishes, that are not all work related). But hold your horses, before you accuse your boss of bullying, they are given the power to control  your behaviour to ensure office decorum and productivity, ha ha.
  • Have a strong personal dislike to the victim
    Personal dislike is different from dislike to a¬†behaviour affecting work output and employee morale. ¬†The former can lead to bullying, the latter¬†won’t.
  • Personal attacks
    If your age, sex, disability (if any), religion, race, appearance, family and relationships are the subject of attack, we have a brewing case of workplace bullying.
  • With specific objective
    Unlike traditional bullying where intentions are random, workplace bullying has pre-defined objectives. Some of which are
    – to get ahead of you
    – to get rid of you
    – to pass the blame on you
    – to get you to kiss their ass


Who are the likely the instigators of workplace harassment


  • The bosses
    Bosses are the usual suspects of workplace bullying because organically, they have the 1st 2 elements (1) power and (2) control. But the actions of the boss cannot be considered bullying if it is meant to correct a wrong¬†behaviour or to increase productivity. Other than the above, yes, bosses can be bullies, but they are¬†creative ūüôā
    Their likely victims?  Subordinates, their own boss or fellow managers/supervisors
  • Subordinates
    Subordinates are bullies too,  and are equally creative as the boss. Bosses are prone to bullying if they are newly hired or promoted, or take over manager/supervisor of tenured employees.
    Their likely victim? Their boss
  • Employees who are tenured (or the most senior)
    Employees who are tenured are likely to hold influence over the rest. Tenured employees are also resistant to change, plus they have the illusion that they’re untouchables- either bec. they have access to top management or they believe that removing them is costly
    Their likely victims? Bosses and newly hired or transferred employees.
  • Any employee
    Any employee can bully another. This normally happen when one employee considers the other a threat to his/her work ambition, i.e. salary increase, promotion
    Their likely victim? YOU

What Are The “Likely” Acts Of An¬†Office Bully

Emphasis on the word likely because unless motives are established and the aggression is substantiated, coming out to the open to complain them will just make you a cry baby.

  1. Verbal abuse
  2. Cyber bullyingyou are mocked or made fun of “online”
  3. Peters’ Principle- bosses can promote you to a level of incompetence
  4. Sabotage- a group can conspire or an employee can do acts that will cause you to fail or look bad
  5. Unfavorable assignment- this can mean being assigned often on the graveyard shift, branch transfer that is far from your residence (please remember that management has the prerogative to do this, and can be done legally)
  6. Sexual harassment
  7. Threats and Blackmail
  8. Indirect insubordination- it’s like you’re tasked to head the Christmas party committee and when you called for a meeting, no one attended
  9. Taking advantage of the newly hired, transfers or interns/OJTs
  10. Social- a group effort to make another employee (bosses or colleagues) feel s/he is not welcome or not part of the group.

I have lots of personal stories to share, ha ha. As we navigate the corporate jungle, we will certainly encounter an office bully at least once, in our corporate life.

What about you, do you have a story to share? Voice out below!



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