Workplace Bullying the New Sexual Harassment

When most of us spend the majority of our lives in the workplace, the last thing we need is to be made to feel intimidated, humiliated or belittled. Taking back your power on the clock.  — BadWitch

Readers Are Spellbound & Perplexed…

Dear GWBW — Ladies, have you heard that office bullying is the new workplace sexual harassment? The numbers are staggering that it is often woman-on-woman bullying. I’m a junior attorney and I’m the one being bullied. Any suggestions other than legal advice that I’ve got covered? How to cope? Red & Bullied


Dear Red & Bullied,

First off, I’m sorry you’re enduring such mind (psycho-emotional) and body (health, including organ malfunction and immune system deterioration) draining attacking, Red. Make no mistake there is no excuse for such behavior on the playground or the workplace, and to clarify, “bullying” is not a bad mood or a single incident. Bullying is the repeated unreasonable behavior imposed on a specific individual or group, which causes physical or psychological harm. But you can do more towards controlling your “enduring” reaction and how your mind and body respond to lessen the negative, corrosive effects.

Bullying in the workplace is where sexual harassment was a few decades ago: beginning to be taken as a serious and harmful offense. While not completely extinct, the decline in sexual harassment had to go through its arc to finally being considered unacceptable by our society, and resulting in more assistance for its victims. As sexual harassment victims can tell you, bullying is also a complex issue often involving power, anger management, stress and self-esteem (and far more). Talk about this (not in a slanderous or gossipy tone) plainly and educate others about your experience and feelings. I realize there is always a “when ready” factor, but please don’t bottle up or hide in the closet your feelings from these events. If possible, seek support in numbers of your like-minded/-experienced peers.

I know you know to document, document, document and get HR involved, as appropriate, for recordkeeping. For my personality, taking action is taking care of myself and actively working on healing my self. When I need help, I feel no shame in asking for it (as you have here). But how individuals internalize experiences — especially one as aggressively dished out and humiliating as bullying — is extremely personal. Seek help from a counselor, and/or to better understand how your personality handles its stressful challenges, try a personality-based stress management program like StillSitting. Whatever your personality, don’t keep the humiliation, anger or frustration of being attacked (often publicly in an uneven power situation) stuffed down or let it control your life by controlling your mind. You can release yourself from the invisible but powerful aspects of the assault of bullying.

Take your power back,



Dear Red & Bullied,

As I’ve always said, there’s nothing worse than a wimp with power—workplace junior dignitaries controlled by insecurities while wielding the modicum of power they have in whiplash fashion. How do you deal? Take care of yourself.

Bullies thrive on pointing out your challenges. Instead of feeling “less than” because some insecure asshole is jumping up and down on your hot button of shame, embrace it. That shame you hide so deeply in the back of the closet is the very ammunition your bully needs. Unearth it. Face your challenges head on and give yourself some love around the issue.

We all have weaknesses. Rather than take the stance of victim or match the angry energy of your bully—pointing out their weaknesses—take a breath. Acknowledge the truth without accepting blame, shame or regret. An even reply like, “Yeah, I’m working on that,” said with confidence can take the wind out of any bullies sails. If you do not allow them power over you, they will move on to an easier target. Bullies want to get a reaction. Don’t give it to them.

In the meantime going home to drink your sorrows away by yourself is no way to cope. Trust me, I’ve tried. Talk to your friends, the people in your life who respect and love you as you are. And I don’t just mean a bitchfest, I mean deep discussions where you explore how you are helping this situation continue to drag you down. If you can’t leave the environment, you must learn how to adapt your own behavior and responses to affect change.

Some of this is the fine art of office politics with which I cannot help you, because I do not have enough info to tell you how to finesse higher ups to bring light to this situation. Also, lawyers are notorious for not liking tattle tales, ironically. “Toughen up,” is likely to be the most compassionate phrase you hear out of that group. This is a group that likes to argue and recognizes the need for bravado to get ahead.

Build up your own self-esteem by embracing all of who you are. Take inventory and appreciate what you have to offer and what you are still working on and realize that perfection is a myth. Then start meditating. That’s right, take some time each morning to check in with you and get balanced in your own energy BEFORE you are immersed in the energetic swamp of your bully. You will have an easier time not reacting and, therefore, not being such an appealing target.

BTW, your bully probably has some jealousies and/or insecurities about who you are and, therefore, feels like they need to take you down a peg or two. Realize the back-handed compliment, then give yourself the props you deserve and keep on rolling. As someone always said, “Don’t let the turkeys get you down.” I might add turkeys can’t fly. Don’t stay stuck at their lower energy. Use your wings.

Mantra: My world is bigger than this moment. My soul is bigger than these trifling attacks. I am more than this. And I step forward in strength and grace—as I am meant to.

Strength, Courage and Wisdom,



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8 responses to “Workplace Bullying the New Sexual Harassment

  1. Eileen – Priceless! Thank you, nice one. – BW

  2. Hi All:
    Are you familiar with workplace MOBBING? Well, let me tell you. I was bullied on a daily basis by a group of FEMALES who were actually solicited and groomed by the MALE Director who was very intimidated by me. So how did he protect himself from this covert form of sexual harassment? He commissioned his insecure female cronies to do his dirty work. So, yes! Workplace bullying is the new sexual harassment, however, it is protected under U.S. law . Of note, workplace bullying is ILLEGAL in most European countries. That is, Europe understands the need for ‘respect and dignity’ in the workplace! After all, respect and dignity in the workplace plays a vital role in workplace PRODUCTIVITY and PROFIT. Unfortunately our U.S. Corporate leaders don’t have a clue with respect to the effects of bullying on increase health care costs and dollars lost from lack of productivity. As I understand, it is more important to prevent HR law suits than it is to actually provide some form of workplace LEADERSHIP. As for all those workplace bullying bills that have been introduced to our state legislators, most, if not all, have have been thwarted (thrown out) by the usual temptation…. Corporate finance donations.

    Thanks for listening and keep well

  3. Interesting. But I don’t think it’s just women on women bullying – it crosses both sexes and goes in both directions.

  4. Nancy, I wish you weren’t so shy and retiring; it’s not good to stuff emos down. How do you really feel? `;}

    I like your last bit of advice to seek out a partner (or a department manager, if not a legal environ) for help. Again, I think there is help, documentation, as well as safety in numbers, and law & order in structure (office environs always reflect top-down ethos/pathos). But I disagree that someone, even the inept (and this former GM & Director has seen some), should be or deserves to be bullied into submission, compliance, and it definitely works against you if you’re looking for performance improvement(s). Actual bullying encourages more of same (and if you wanna see ineptitude…watch that stream!), again it’s always a top-down set-by-example environment, for good or bad, so this is when good (office and self-) management skills are good for something. I gave myself the moniker “BadWitch” because the majority of people, to my view, don’t seem to know the difference between “mean” and being honest and appropriately straight up in a timely way (or often have a need to call it “tough love”). Bullying is a broad term, but we all have experienced at one time in our lives or another, its hurtful effects. We all know how it FEELS. I will add that temperament and good fit count for everything. Not everyone is suited to work in: law firm, caregiving, or offices per se (!). Thanks for sounding off — what a great can of worms you bring to the party.

  5. Pingback: Workplace Bullying the New Sexual Harassment | Adult Society

  6. First off, what is it that is causing the bullying? Poor job performance or is it merely as Bad Witch stated “a wimp with power?” If it is indeed poor job performance, then I regret to say that you have no one to blame but yourself. You were hired for a specific position, at considerable expense to the firm. They had faith in you and your abilities. If you’re not holding up your end of the bargain, then perhaps this particular firm is not the place for you. Now, should the bullying be a result of a “wimp with power”, don’t get made, get even. Everyone has their weakness, in your case the bully has exposed yours. Do your homework, figure out how this person operates and be on the alert at all times. Anticipating your bully’s next move and being one step ahead will drive him or her nuts. Being proactive will save your job and your sanity. Law firms are notorious for working their associates and support staff to death, all in the name of profit and making the partners look good. If the person you’re having an issue with is not a partner, seek one out and ask for some advice on how to deal with this person.

  7. Thanks for the recommend, neversremedy. All resources for people being bullied are appreciated as such as well as to remind people being affected by such behaviors that they can do something about it.

  8. As always, the pair of witches give great advice and strategies for dealing with life’s obstacles. I would also add to this list, seeing as lawyers have been trained in different styles of communication, adding another to the list of skill sets: The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense. There is an entire series now that Suzette Haden Elgin has provided for assistance in dealing with all sorts of bullies, from disagreeing mother-in-laws, to co-workers with a grudge.

    I know she recently revised the original book, “The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense,” and she also has a book specific to dealing with office bullies, “The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense at Work.”

    Suzette is a grandmother with years of experience as a linguist and writer, and she’s helped me both to communicate better with difficult people and to write better science-fiction.

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