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Counselling for Workplace Bullying

– — Bullying and mobbing are forms of psychological abuse that I hear about often in my counselling office, unfortunately. Mobbing is when a bully convinces others to join in the abuse against the target. These types of abuse can cause psychological injuries that can be healed, if treated.  They do not mean anything negative about the target.  The person targeted never invited or caused the abuse. Targets are unwilling or unable to protect themselves from it, often due to a naiveté about the bully’s defective or arrested state of development. The individual targeted starts off feeling shocked, confused, & on edge.   If left untreated this often leads to the target suffering anxiety, PTSD, lowered self esteem, impaired ability to trust, unemployment, isolation, depression, & relationship breakdown.
Many quiet leaders and other HAPs/HSPs have experienced either bullying or mobbing at work.  I have witnessed others being bullied where I worked in the past and have been tested by bullies myself.  Often the polite, conscientious, well-liked, & competent workers are targeted most.  I’ve helped them recover and go on to return to work as their former confident selves.

It’s bullying in the workplace when:

  1. There are repeated actions that cause humiliation, offence, & distress to the target.
  2. There’s an imbalance of power. *
  3. The behaviours are perceived by the target as negative and unwelcome.
  4. The behaviours may be deliberate or unconsciously carried out by the bully (intention does not have to be present).
* Sources of power may be psychological, position, personality, information, resources, or relationships.
Bullying is not the same as harassment, which involves discrimination on grounds of race, religion, gender, age, disability, nationality, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, social class or other status.

The Canada Safety Council found that workplace bullying is four times more common than sexual harassment or workplace discrimination.


Typical forms of Workplace Bullying:

  • Excluding, isolating, shunning, scapegoating
  • Forcing you to do tasks below your station or professional skills
  • Unwarranted removal of responsibilities
  • Unjust reprisals
  • Not inviting to meetings, cancelling meetings last minute
  • Withholding info, equipment, resources
  • Unachievable assignments, deadlines, overload
  • Stealing credit for your work, ideas
  • Rumouring/gossiping
  • Making intimidating gestures
  • Name calling, ridiculing
  • Teasing: making fun of your beliefs, tastes, choices
  • Threats, yelling
  • Cutting communication off, interrupting
  • Double messages
  • Projection  *
  • Sneak attack  **
  • Double Binds  ***
*  Accuse you of qualities you don’t have but they have them and don’t own it/see it.
**  Very nice until you trust them; then sudden criticism, suppressed rage, & insinuations.  You ask what happened; they act surprised, angry, & project onto you. Then you doubt your perceptions, & they may then feign concern.
 *** Feel trapped? In a Lose/ Lose position?   This is a double bind, a common & subtle form of bullying. It’s normal and healthy to seek help for dealing with being targeted. Trauma does not resolve on its own. I can give a presentation to your group and/or see you 1:1.  If you would like my help on getting through this kind of situation,  please click here to contact me. I have been providing counselling for workplace bullying for 14 years, in Vancouver, BC.
Risk Factors at Work:    Leymann 1986, 1992
  • Strict hierarchical organization
  • Authoritarian atmosphere
  • Poor communication in the group
  • Envy & competition re: jobs, status
  • Leader is either participating or closing their eyes to it, & therefore is responsible
Strong management is not the same as bullying.
Conflict or personality clashes are not same as bullying.
Witnesses are:

  • harmed by witnessing/knowing about bullying incidents (Vartia 2001)
  • can be punished for not intervening
  • can be taught how to intervene safely


  • Bullying of one person by a group, often instigated by a bully
  • 92% of mobbing targets develop symptoms of PTSD at levels similar to those who have experienced combat, rape, & prison camps
  • Hostile words and actions designed to show contempt for the target
  • Objective of the collective attack is to rob the target of dignity and self-respect
  • Target is often an overachiever, co-operative, easy going, principled, & well-liked
  • Escalation from avoidance to harassment, then to formal sanctions, hearings, & elimination
  • When mobbing goes unchecked, it can push the target to respond with violence including suicide

If any of these are happening to you:

Don’t ignore it.  Contact me now. It won’t go away if you’re extra nice or work harder. Don’t just avoid the bully.  These responses will leave you open to escalating attacks. You are being injured. Your health, your position, your reputation, & your relationships at work & at home are all in jeopardy. It only gets worse if you don’t protect yourself.  Yes it’s scary to think about, and I can help you. I’ve steered many clients through the swampy mess of being bullied or mobbed in the workplace, until we arrived at a safe place. I know how to keep things confidential and professional and tell you all your options. I’ll empower you with information and help you rebuild your confidence. I can provide EMDR, which is a powerful tool for healing from PTSD or installing positive beliefs.

How did I help others who were bullied at work?

In private 1:1 counselling sessions, I helped them name and understand what was happening to them and reframe it as not their fault.  I assessed & measured their trauma symptoms (PTSD) for the record. I validated their experiences of powerlessness, fear, being trapped, alone, anger, & mistrust. I provided EMDR to facilitate a reframing of the experiences as threats they can handle, and then taught them the skills that are effective in these situations.  I provided them with examples of how others before them successfully handled being targeted. I informed them of the law against bullying in the workplace in BC. I offered the names of employment lawyers who could write letters on their behalf.  I showed them how to write a business case to take to someone higher up, if appropriate. I coached them through every step of recovery and often to finding other work if they so chose. I taught them body language and verbal techniques to reduce their risk of being targeted anywhere in the future.
It’s normal and healthy to seek help for dealing with being targeted. Trauma does not resolve on its own. If you would like my help on getting through this kind of situation, please click here to contact me and get professional counselling for workplace bullying.







.Workplace Bullying: Symptoms & Solutions by Noreen Tehrani (Editor)
–  Building a Culture of Respect: Managing Bullying at Work by Noreen Tehrani
–  The Bully at Work  by Gary & Ruth Namie