Workplace bullying isn't that different than childhood bullying -- except your job may be at stake.

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It's Tuesday morning. You've just sat down at your desk with a cup of coffee and are beginning to sort through your workload for the day. Out of the corner of your eye, you see your boss round the corner. Immediately your stomach tightens and shoulders hunch. You wait with your eyes glued to your monitor as she walks briskly towards you, knowing she's going to have something to say about the status report you submitted last night. You had made a small mistake and were planning on fixing it first thing this morning. It's nothing catastrophic, but experience has taught you that has no bearing on anything. Your boss walks up behind you, and before you can say a forced "good morning," she slams the report on the table hard enough to make your colleagues turn around and look. She says loudly enough for all to hear, "This is ridiculous. I don't know what's wrong with you but I do know this. I could pull anyone in off the street and they'd do a better job than you." The fact that you've seen co-workers make the same error without your manager breathing a word is irrelevant; she's singled you out to blame. Your stomach is in knots, and your colleagues go back to their work as you brace yourself for another long day.

Does this scenario sound familiar? Workplace bullying isn't uncommon. Chances are you've either experienced on-the-job bullying personally or witnessed it. Perhaps you felt powerless to confront your bully, or maybe you feared you'd be fired if you spoke up. If you have been bullied in the past or are currently being bullied, realize you aren't alone.

In the next sections, we'll learn what constitutes a workplace bully, the damage they leave in their wake and what you can do to defend yourself.