6 Reasons Why People Are Bullied at Work

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Every day, employees are abused and bullied at work. In fact, the issue of workplace bullying affects nearly one-fifth of all employees at some point during their careers, or 60.3 million Americans every year, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute.

If you have experienced workplace bullying, you may ask yourself “why me?” Here are some common reasons why people become targets of workplace bullies.

Targets Are Skilled Workers

You may be bullied at work because you receive a lot of positive attention for your work. Maybe you are intelligent, determined, creative, and regularly contribute new and innovative ideas. Or maybe you go the extra mile and gain recognition for your hard work. Maybe you even move through projects quickly while others are struggling. All these things attract the attention of workplace bullies.

Workplace bullies target those that have talent because they either feel inferior or they worry that their work is being overshadowed by the other employee's work and abilities. Bullying bosses, in particular, will target skilled workers and either steal the credit or undermine the target's work.

Targets Are Well-Liked or Popular

It is a myth that all victims of bullying are loners and outcasts with no friends or social connections. Often, it is the popular and well-liked workers that are most vulnerable to workplace bullying. If this describes you, bullies believe you pose a threat to their own popularity and social status at work.

Some bullies form cliques and target others who threaten their status or social standing. If you are well-liked at work, this could be the reason behind the attacks and jabs at you from the office bully.

Targets Are Good People

If you would describe yourself as caring, social and collaborative, this may be the reason that you are being bullied at work. To a workplace bully, these characteristics drain the power they have. Team-building is the antithesis of what a bully wants. Bullies want to be in control and to call all the shots. So, you may be targeted by bullies because you are a team player.

This does not mean you should change your behavior. It simply gives you some insight into why you are being targeted. You also may be targeted for being ethical and honest. For instance, whistleblowers who expose fraudulent practices are frequently bullied by others at work to keep quiet.

Targets Are Non-Confrontational or Vulnerable

If you are introverted, anxious, or submissive, you are more likely to be bullied at work than those who are extroverted and assertive.

Research has shown that if adults work to build their self-esteem and assertiveness skills, they might diminish the likelihood that they will be targeted by workplace bullies.

There is also some evidence that depression and other stress-related conditions might attract the attention of bullies. If you are living with any of these conditions, it is important to get treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms. Depression, anxiety, and stress-related conditions should never be left untreated. What's more, bullying will just exacerbate your symptoms.

Targets Are Viewed Stereotypically or Prejudicially

In other words, you may be targeted because of your gender, age, race, sexual preference, or religion. You also may be bullied if you have a disability or a disease. Whatever the reason, workplace bullies single out and target people who are different from them in some way. They also tend to discriminate against others. If you are being bullied for any of these reasons, you may have some legal recourse. Consider contacting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to see if you can file a complaint.

Targets Have Physical Features That Attract Attention

Unfortunately, adults often bully others for the same reasons kids target others in elementary school. Whether you are short or tall, heavy or thin, have a large chest or no chest at all, workplace bullies will find a way to exploit your appearance. In fact, almost any type of physical characteristic that is different or unique can attract the attention of bullies. This includes wearing glasses, having a large nose, having ears that protrude, and even having adult acne. 

A Word From Verywell

If you are experiencing bullying at work, take steps to report it. You also should do what you can to confront the bully. It is never a good idea to let workplace bullying continue without addressing it in some way. Even if you do nothing at all to report the bullying, at least take steps to take care of yourself.  

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  1. Workplace Bullying Institute. 2017 Workplace Bullying Institute U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey. 2017.