Are bullying intervention strategies effective? Work Safety by Dr Flis

9 workplace intervention strategies commonly used in resolving online and offline bullying, their effectiveness and implications for work safety - Dr Flis

When talking about workplace bullying, research reports most people generally attempt two or three of the following measures.

Some try to ignore it until it’s becomes critical and affects their work performance and/or health. These targets then report the matter to their OHS representative or HR area as a breach of workplace code of conduct, OHS or anti-bullying/harassment policies. 

Depending on the target’s confidence levels, they may consider taking the matter to the bully’s boss and/or HR and request them to intervene on their behalf. Some targets may feel able to take the matter directly to senior management. If a member of a union, some targets seek assistance from their union.

Research has found that a staggering 95% of targets are unlikely to obtain a workable resolution to the bullying using these strategies.

Note: Read how to take back your personal power and control in  ‘5 steps to take back your control during workplace confrontations.’  or  ‘6 risk management strategies to interrupt negative workplace behaviours.’  and ‘6 tactics to stay sane despite working in a toxic workplace.’ 

Or, download and get my FREE eBook, Beating Toxic Workplaces.’

If you’re wondering why you’re consistently accepting positions or roles within unhappy workplaces that manifest negative online and offline behaviours, then read ‘Why some workplaces just don’t work for you.’

**If you’re an OHS or HR manager searching for simple steps to assess your organisation’s culture, read my article Why organisational culture is a Game Changer for workplace engagement’ or contact me at for a free organisational culture assessment.

Am I accidentally triggering the bullying behaviour?

Most targets immediately assume it’s their fault, that they did something to precipitate the behaviour. One of the most powerful realisations is to know that you (the target) are not the problem – the problem is the perpetrator and the organisation’s culture that enables the behaviour.

To put workplace bullying into context, you need to know that it is quite possible you may be triggering the workplace bullying.


I’m sorry to have to tell you but you may have one or more of the following attributes.

You are probably independent and may not be subservient to the perpetrator’s conscious or unconscious need to be seen and treated as special.

You probably technically ‘out-skill’ the bully and consistently demonstrate greater emotional intelligence and social skills. You are generally liked and/or respected by staff, colleagues and bosses. You may also exhibit the attributes of honesty and ethical behaviour, both of which threaten the bully, particularly if you work in an entitlement-based organisation that allows certain people to misuse their position to access favours (sexual or otherwise).

Highly ethical people are also more likely to be whistleblowers, as they view fraudulent work practices are offensive. Unfortunately, if you are a whistleblower you are more likely to be bullied either by the perpetrator or their organisation.

Interestingly, if you’re female then you may be at a higher risk of being bullied, by other women.


According to a 2010 Survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute, of the 35% of workers who reported observing or suffering workplace bullying, 58% of the targets were women. Women were also found to be 80% more likely to bully other women.

What does bullying look like at work?

  • False accusations and rumours
  • Glares, put-downs, insults, harsh criticism, shouting
  • Intimidating non-verbal behavior, exclusion and ‘the cold shoulder’ treatment
  • Put-downs, insults, excessive harsh criticism.
  • Unreasonable heavy work demands and micro-managing behaviours
  • Sabotage that prevents work from getting done
  • Stealing credit for your work

So, I suppose you’re now wondering what you can do to stop the bullying?

Nine Existing Methods to Stop Workplace Bullying, and their Effectiveness

The Workplace Bullying Institute reports nine strategies traditionally used to stop workplace bullying. I have listed these in ranking of their effectiveness, and you can read the WBI’s full report here.

1. Ignore the behaviour | This strategy is 3.25% effective.

2. Directly confronted the perpetrator | This strategy is 3.57% effective.

3. Requested boss/supervisor’s assistance to intervene | This strategy is 3.26% effective.

4. Requested intervention from senior management | Effectiveness | This strategy is 3.69% effective.

5. Requested union intervention | This strategy is 8.84% effective.

6. Raising an official complaint to HR regarding a violation of the bullying & harassment policy | This strategy is 4.7% effective.

7. Filing a complaint with an external agency, such as WorkSafety or Fair Work Commission |
11.9% effective

8. Seeking private legal counsel with the view of filing lawsuit | 11.2% effective

9. Outcome of a bullying and harassment lawsuit | 16.4% effective

My view is that the only really effective way of preventing and intervening negative workplace behaviours is by taking back your personal power and control at work.

Dr Flis has a BA in Social Science and a PhD in educational organisation social psychology. She is passionate about improving people's workplace experiences by giving people tools to regain their sense of personal power and self-confidence when facing negative behaviours at work, and helping organisational leaders transition their agencies to respective and more productive work environments.

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