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3 Sinister Signs Your Boss Or Co-Worker Is 'Quiet Bullying' You

Photo: Prostock-studio / Shutterstock
woman being quiet bullied at work

We tend to associate bullying with being a teenager, yet the reality is those negative attitudes and behaviors often carry over into the adult world. 

Content creator Amber Lord offers what she calls “Career Millennial Hot Takes,” using her social media platform to give practical guidance on navigating the workplace — especially when that environment proves itself to be toxic. 

Lord recently shared an astute observation about corporate culture, explaining that many companies and bosses cultivate an atmosphere where bullying and abuse are normalized. “We’ve all talked about ‘quiet quitting,’ but I would like to coin the term ‘quiet bullying,’” she said. “There are so many deceptive behaviors that co-workers and bosses get away with because they’re not technically illegal."

   

   

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Here are 3 sinister signs your boss or co-worker is ‘quiet bullying’ you:

1. Negative body language

Lord explained how people can use body language as a form of quiet bullying. She described various examples of negative body language, like someone rolling their eyes when you speak or singling you out in groups of people.

She also mentioned more overt quiet bullying tactics, such as “Speaking over you in meetings, constantly trying to get other people on the team against you, including your own boss, in very subtle ways, slowly and over time, but really chipping away at people’s perception of you.”

Being excluded from meetings or being passed over when a co-worker or boss shares important information are other examples of quiet bullying that set you up to seem uninformed, unprepared, or dumb, which can affect people’s impression of you as a worker.

3 Sinister Signs Your Boss Or Co-Worker Is Quiet Bullying You At WorkPhoto: Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock

2. Minimizing

She gave another example of quiet bullying, explaining how someone might minimize things in the office to make negative actions seem less important. 

You might report a complaint to HR, only to be told by your boss or co-worker that it’s not a big deal, making you feel like you’re being gaslit. You might confide in another co-worker about being bullied, or any other serious issue that you’re going through, and they minimize your experience to make you feel like you don’t matter.

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3. Stealing credit for your work

Lord’s final example of quiet bullying is one that’s both difficult to stand up to and has serious consequences on an employee’s well-being: When your boss or co-worker takes credit for work you’ve done.

“This is something that a lot of people will say, ‘Grow up, it’s just part of being in the work world, get over it,’” she said before explaining why this behavior is so harmful.

“Sometimes people earn bonuses and get looked at for promotions when they do a good job and when they come up with great creative ideas," she said. "When someone continues to steal your intellectual property and pass it off as their own, and they keep getting favored because of that, it can absolutely wear away at your mental health.”

Being the target of harassment in the workplace makes you feel isolated and alone, which is the intended outcome of any bullying behavior. Yet, these low-key yet harmful actions are often seen as socially acceptable or a built-in part of corporate culture. 

   

   

She touched on ways to hold people accountable for abuse and bullying, noting that when you can get documentation of toxic behavior “that’s very pervasive and there’s clear evidence of that,” then it’s possible to take legal action. 

Sadly, quiet bullying is specifically designed to be brushed under the rug as if the experience is just in your head.

“These are things that happen to so many people so often, and they’re so hard to prove, but it’s very real and it really does wear away at people,” Lord concluded. She spoke about the value of starting a conversation about quiet bullying in social settings if only to normalize an experience that so many people go through. 

Being bullied is never okay, even when it seems to be sanctioned in your workplace. By shedding light on the issue, more people will come to realize the common threads of quiet bullying and stand up in the face of subtle yet damaging emotional abuse. 

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers social issues, pop culture, and all things to do with the entertainment industry.