Harassment & bullying at workplace―example cases and how to handle it―

Life Skills

These days, harassment is recognized as one of the serious social problems. We have different type of harassment in the workplace. What should we do if your boss intimidates or bullying us? This time, I will explain the basic knowledge of harassment, especially the harassment based on status abuse, and how to deal with it.


Determination of harassment.

Harassment refers to acts/behavior in the workplace that cause mental or physical pain beyond the appropriate scope of work due to management position, such as a manager, upper management team, colleagues in different position. According to US equal employment opportunity commission, the determination of harassment is below,

Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, older age, disability, or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful  enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment. The conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.

Offensive conduct may include offensive jokes, name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule, insults, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance. Harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including the following:

The harasser can be the victim’s manager, a manager in another area, an agent of the employer, a co-worker, or a non-employee. The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.

【reference】US equal employment opportunity commission

Why does harassment occur?

There are two major causes of harassment: “stress” and “organizational constitution.” When stress puts an excessive burden on the mental side, it tries to release it somewhere. As a result, people will make rough responses and unreasonable demands to the other party. In addition, harassment caused by the constitution of the organization occurs in a company that has so-called ‘’top-down system’’, which is not democratic way.

Types of harassment

There are various types of power harassment. It is important to know what kind of behaviors constitutes harassment, to think about appropriate coping strategies.

Physical attack

Hitting, kicking, or physically assaulting another person. It also includes physical restrictions such as confining them in a private room and making them write reflections, or giving them special training nevertheless employee disagree.

  • Pretending business meeting and invite employee to a private space in a hotel/company.
  • Forcing signature/agreement in a room nevertheless the employee disagree with it actually.
  • Special training for presentation/public speech in a manager’s room.

Mental attacks

Putting excessive mental pressure on employee with negative words. Shouting at subordinates who made mistakes in front of other employees, swearing at them with violent words, denying employee’s personality with talking which is not work-related things, and insulting employee’s family/friends. These behavior damage employee’s mental. Sometimes, it regards as assault or blackmail in law.

  • ‘’You don’t obey me. You have to change your personality.”
  • ‘’If you don’t follow me, you’ll have to quite this company.’’
  • ‘’If you didn’t work well, it leads to my embarrassment.”

Separation of human relationships

The behavior of disconnecting from others in the workplace, so-called ostracism. It refers to the act of intentionally not sharing necessary information with a particular employee to remove from the communication group.

Excessive / Insufficient Requests

It is to make them do unfeasible quality and quantity work. The act of forcing a job that clearly lacks of the ability will burden for employee physically/mentally. Another problem is the behavior of giving only a small amount of work to those who have the enough ability. The self-esteem of employees will be lost.

  • Imposing unfeasible sales budget to sales person in order to make him/her resigned.
  • Provide limited work volume intentionally to avoid his/her promotion.   

Privacy Invasion

Infringement on personal privacy and personal time. Since holidays are private time for the employee, it is a problem to summon subordinates or involved people in the workplace by brandishing the position on the job. Also, private questions are not appropriate if either of them does not desire.

  • ”Do you have a boyfriend/girlfirend?”
  • ”How are you doing well with your partner?”

What is the background of harassment in the workplace?

First of all, let’s think about why your boss take unreasonable harassment/bullying. No one acts without reasons, so he/she must have some reasons. For examples, yelling at you means that your boss is under pressure from management, your performance is under expectation, or your talking/behavior makes your boss annoyed. The boss wants to bully you, and feel superior by watching you obey to himself.

Examples① An excellent subordinate cases

The reason why bosses take harassment their excellent subordinates is “jealousy.”  An excellent subordinate should be a powerful ally for himself/herself. However, he/she imagines that the subordinate might be evaluated more than himself and it threaten his position. A less confident manager has tendency to see talented subordinate negatively.

A confident boss creates a positive cycle. He leaves some part of the responsibility to an excellent subordinate and work for a new project which the subordinate cannot.  However, harassment boss cannot think like this. Hs is filled with anxiety, for examples, “What if I lose my position because of the subordinate”. He cannot stop bullying due to too much worries.

These types of boss always seek some fault by the talented subordinates. Even if the subordinate make a small mistake, they say, for examples, “You’re no good. All is your fault.” Harassment escalates more and more if someone praise the subordinates. The boss wants to feel a sense of superiority and say, “I’m great, I’m better than you.”

Examples② A poor subordinate cases

The reason why a boss take harassment to a poor performance subordinates is anxiety for evaluation from the company. When a manager is assigned to a new position, or when a manager promoted recently, he/she has a lot of insecurities. He is under pressure from management team and does not know how to educate his subordinates. He gets frustrated with his subordinates who don’t work well as he thought, then one day he explodes.

“All my subordinates are useless people. I can’t live up to the company’s expectations, and my evaluation will go down. What if I get demoted?” The boss cannot control himself and  attacks his subordinates in order to keep his self-esteem. In this negative cycle, a boss doesn’t think, “I wonder if my management has something wrong.”  He always looks for reasons to attack subordinates. Even if they make a small mistake, a boss judges that they are the one who undermines my evaluation as a manager. Then, say to subordinates “It’s all your fault.


As can be seen, the reasons for harassment differ depending on the type of subordinate, Therefore, it is important observe the boss carefully. If you understand what your boss is worried about or dissatisfied with, you will be able to see specific countermeasures. If you have a mental advantage, you will be able to act without being dominated by the fear of your boss.

How to manage a harassment boss

Strategy① Dodge the opponent’s attack

We instinctively try to defend themselves when someone attacks us physically and mentally. When your boss tells you that you’re not good at work, your self-esteem is piqued and you feel unpleasant. At that time, you can say in your heart, for examples, “”I understand you think it’s no good, but I don’t think so.” Believe in yourself, don’t be disturbed by them. If you lose control yourself, that’s their aim. If you begin thinking that you are not good enough, it is a danger signal.

Strategy② Pretend to be stupid

People who are frustrated with dissatisfaction and anxiety try to relieve their worries by attacking others. The purpose is to put down the opponent and recognize that he/she is superior to others at work. Therefore, if you praise the boss, the attack will soften. In other words, you pretend to lose. Harassment boss think that it’s all subordinates’ fault. If subordinates are against the boss, he/she attack more and more. It’s waste of your time.

Strategy③ Calm reaction/response

Everyone feels bad when someone says something unpleasant talk to them. However, if you show an annoying expression in the workplace, the boss’s attack will intensify, like “What is that attitude!’’ No matter what they say, don’t show your emotion.

Take a deep breath. These days, it is said that breathing techniques help to maintain the autonomic nervous system. When people are emotional, the breathing becomes shallow. When your boss is talking about a lot of things at work, control your breathing. Then, you can calm down.

Strategy④ Compliment

Since the situation in a company changes from time to time, the behavior of the boss is also subject to change easily. It’s common to say something different this time and previous time. I understand that you want to refute, but forget the past instead of digging it up, and compliment what the boss is proud of. This is a key points to get along with your boss.


  • If you are harassed at work, analyse the person to understand the cause and background.
  • To handle harassment boss, keep calm yourself, save your time/life.

I have experiences to work under a harassment boss. I could have resigned quickly, but at the time I had things I wanted to accomplish. The bullying actions were unpleasant, but I gradually got around it for a big purpose because I know myself. Managing harassment will be strong skill in business and life and critical to improve better democracy.