Overcoming the Office Bully: Recognize, Respond, and Defend in the Corporate World

An office bully, also known as a workplace aggressor or a corporate bully, is a common yet insidious presence in many modern workplaces. These individuals seek power and respect through aggressive and manipulative behavior, often leaving their victims feeling demoralized and frustrated. (1)

The Impact of an Office Bully: Office bullies can negatively impact your professional growth and overall work performance. They may engage in behaviors such as hijacking your desk, spreading rumors, or even physically intimidating you. (2) For instance, imagine the daily struggle of having to share a workspace with someone who constantly moves your belongings or belittles your ideas in front of colleagues. These small but consistent acts can disrupt your focus and productivity, causing unnecessary stress and anxiety.

Triggers and Causes: Office bullies are particularly active under high stress and pressure, making them more prevalent during periods of corporate downsizing or restructuring. (3) Research suggests that bullies may exhibit behaviors rooted in personality traits like narcissism, lack of empathy, and a need for control. (4)

Dealing with an Office Bully: Psychologist Dr. Schmidt recommends the "better to ignore than respond" strategy as a means of dealing with office bullies. However, there are instances where ignoring the bully might not be possible or effective. In such cases, assertiveness training and communication workshops can help equip individuals with essential skills for defending against workplace aggression. (5)

Assertiveness Training: Assertiveness training focuses on teaching individuals how to express their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs clearly and effectively while respecting the rights of others. By learning how to be assertive, employees can develop a more positive and productive approach to confronting office bullies.

Communication Tools: Communication tools such as email, instant messaging, and formal reports can serve as documentation and evidence when dealing with workplace aggression. These methods allow individuals to document incidents and create an official record that can be used for future reference or escalation to HR. (6)

Taking Action: It’s essential to remember that office bullies are not invincible, and with the right knowledge and determination, you can improve your work environment and free yourself from their negative influence. If confronted by an office bully, consider using a calm and assertive tone when responding. Seek support from colleagues or HR if necessary. (7)


  1. How do I recognize if someone is an office bully? – Look for signs of aggression, manipulation, and power-seeking behavior in their actions and interactions with you and your colleagues.
  2. What should I do if I cannot ignore the office bully? – Utilize confrontational techniques such as assertiveness training or communication tools like email to defend against the office bully while maintaining a professional demeanor.