How to help someone who has been bullied

This post is about how to help someone who has been bullied when you are their line manager.

8 ways to help someone who has been bullied who reports to you

  1. Believe them
  2. Support them
  3. Give them a break from the team
  4. Move them away from the bullies
  5. Create opportunities for praise, confidence building and feeling great about their skills again
  6. Make them safe
  7. Be understanding
  8. Be physically present and accessible

Read more below or watch my latest video.


The first thing you need to do if someone comes to you about bullying or maybe someone else comes to you on their behalf and then you go to speak to them is to believe them.

You may have doubts. That’s okay. But believe them in that moment and explore what has happened with them.

What you need to do then is verify the events that have happened and potentially give that person a new environment or project or assignment so you can separate them in some way from the bullies, making sure that those changes don’t negatively impact their career.

It might be that you move bullies away from them.

It might be that you just give them a break from the current work environment for a short period of time so that you can assess the situation and what to do.

Ask yourself, are you confident the person is and feels safe?

Are they really comfortable coming to work?

Make sure that all the support that can be made available to them is.

Have at least weekly check-ins with the person who’s been bullied to reinforce your support and that you expect change to be happening in the team.

Really address the side effects of bullying such as lower confidence, self esteem, and ability for that person to perform their work. Create opportunities for praise, confidence boosting work and reinforcement of their skill set.

Be understanding. 

What you might need to do is just make extra time available for leave, time off to attend counselling sessions. They’re likely to experience high levels of sick leave and make sure that they’re being supported both from a physical and emotional perspective.

The other aspect would be to ensure that you listen and have time for them so that when they come to you and they need to speak to you about what’s happening, particularly if the bullying doesn’t actually stop, that you have that time available for them.

As a line manager, you may need to reschedule your meetings. Make sure you’re more present with your team so you’re aware of what is happening and that you’re confident that the team culture has changed, keeping in mind that of course everyone’s behaviour in the team changes when the manager is around that team.

Questions to ask the person who are being bullied when they first come to you and for those first few initial sessions are:

Do you feel safe?

What is the impact this is having on you?

How can I support you?

What do you most want to happen now?

How can we make you feel safe and what would you like to change, stop or continue?

I would just like to reiterate that the most important thing that you do is you do believe them. Even if later on you actually find that they aren’t being bullied and there’s some other motivation, the only way to really find that out is to believe it in the first place and work out what is happening.

So I really hope that helps you as a line manager. I really wish you a lot of luck. It is a very difficult thing to lead a team or individual through.

Good Luck!

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