Career Woman

Bully co-workers: how to deal with them when working from home


This guide outlines what to do about bully co-workers if you are in a remote or home working situation.

Workplace bullying is when someone is bullied and humiliated, manipulated and mistreated by someone they work with. This can be perceived in different ways, such as physical threats to provocations or being excluded from the group, for example. If someone else’s actions are threatening your health or safety at work, that’s intimidation.

Harassment also occurs when you feel intimidated to participate in certain meetings, avoid going to certain spaces depending on who is there, among other situations. If you are afraid to go to work and to be with someone, it is important to be aware.

If you are regularly intimidated, or dread working around someone in particular, chances are you are one of thousands of people who suffer from harassment, bullying and other things.

It is important to deal with bullying at work, as it harms companies and employees. Everyone has the right to work in a safe and peaceful environment. But sometimes the work environment can become a place of suffering.

Learn why you should never feel threatened, humiliated or victimized in your own workplace. If you’re not sure how to handle bullying at work , there are small actions you can take, psychologists say.

It’s sad but true that some people choose to behave in ways that are destructive to not only their colleague’s success but also health and happiness.  Working remotely from bully co-workers unfortunately doesn’t stop their behaviour or diminish its impacts.  In fact, remote working can create even more opportunities for people to behave badly.

Irrespective of the circumstances we are working in its never OK to behave in ways that leave people feeling disrespected and mistreated.  Being aggressive, unreasonably demanding, hyper critical or making jokes at a colleague’s expense are all examples of behaviours no one should have to put up with.  Whether you’re being bullied in online meetings or forums, via email or phone take decisive steps to address the issue.

How to deal with bully co-workers

Choose to act

All too often victims of bully co-workers hesitate to act.  In many instances the primary reason is a fear of making things worse and ultimately being further victimised for taking a stand.  The simple reality is bully co-workers love a victim and are likely to keep going or escalate their behaviour.  Waiting for some else to do something is a hit and miss strategy.

Be educated

Start by understanding what constitutes bullying in the eyes of the law.  According to the Fair Work Ombudsman you are being bullied at work if “a person or group of people repeatedly act unreasonably towards” you and, the behaviour creates a risk to your health or safety.

Reasonableness of course is a subjective term, but the law is clear that behaviours such as humiliating, threatening, intimidating or victimising someone are bullying.  Tap into the online resources provided by the  Fair Work Ombudsman, Safe Work Australia and the Human Rights Commission for further insights to what bullying is, your rights and the steps you can take to overcome the problem.

Recognise who you are dealing with

Bullies come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  Common examples include the aggressive ball of anger that keeps exploding, the hyper critic with a never ending need to point out your mistakes, the manipulator who does much of their work behind the scenes and the two faced traitor who keeps throwing you under the bus.  Understanding how bully co-workers operate will help you to articulate exactly what needs to stop.

Ask the bully co-workers to stop

While it can undeniably feel uncomfortable to challenge bully co-workers, particularly in a public forum, step past fear and speak up.  Maintain a professional approach while letting the bully know when their behaviour is uncalled for or unwelcome.  For example, if a colleague starts ‘having a go’ at you during team meetings let them know that while you are open to their perspective you would appreciate them treating you more respectfully.  If the team prankster keeps making you the subject of their jokes let them know you don’t appreciate it.

Keep a diary of the interactions you have with your bully co-workers that make you feel bullied.  Over time it may prove useful in your efforts to demonstrate a repeated pattern of behaviour.  Bullies usually use multiple avenues to harass.  So, while one aggressive email on its own may not be regarded as bullying, when you add to the picture your notes about poor conduct in meetings or phone calls, or inappropriate remarks made on social media platforms, the issue becomes a lot clearer.

Ask for help

Your employer has a lawful obligation to provide a workplace free of harassment and bullying.  Regardless of whether people are working in an office environment or doing their jobs from home, the obligation is the same.  So put your hand up when you need support to address bullying behaviour.  If you trust your manager to take your concerns seriously, start with them.  If not look to other Managers in your business or HR people who can help.

Look after your mental health

For most people it’s extremely stressful to confront issues of bullying.  An investigation your employer chooses to undertake for example can add further anxiety to an already very draining situation.  Make managing your mental health through this period especially important.  Sleeping, eating well and moderate exercise are all essential to your capacity to avoid longer term mental health ramifications of bullying.

Participate in activities that allow you to destress and spend time talking to people who can offer important reminders of your self-worth and ability to get through this. See a psychologist if you need to, as bullying can lead to health problems, stress and low productivity at work. It is important to take the appropriate steps to deal with bullying at work in order to improve your self-esteem and well-being.

About Karen Gately

Karen Gately, founder of Corporate Dojo, is a leadership and people-management specialist. Karen works with leaders and HR teams to drive business results through the talent and energy of people. She is the author of The People Manager’s Toolkit: A Practical guide to getting the best from people (Wiley) and The Corporate Dojo: Driving extraordinary results through spirited people. For more information visit or contact

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