Work Life

Dealing With Upward Bullying as a New Manager

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The phenomenon known as upwards bullying can manifest in a workplace when an employee engages in bullying behavior towards their manager or supervisor. Typically, such a bully will display an oppositional stance towards authority figures, routinely challenging or resisting their views, goals, or desires. This antagonism towards those in positions of power is deeply ingrained, driven by emotional factors, and sustained over time.

As a new manager, it can be difficult to deal with upward bullying from former peers. The power dynamic has changed, and your direct report may feel insecure or resentful, resulting in behaviors that make your job challenging. This situation is even more challenging for a person of color, lacking systemic support.

To manage this situation, here is some advice to follow:

  1. Reflect on your direct report’s behavior: Bullying is a serious matter, and you should be sure that what you are experiencing is intentional bullying. Reflect on your experience with your new direct report and ask their previous line manager for feedback on their performance and behavior.
  2. If you feel safe, have a conversation: If you feel safe and comfortable doing so, schedule a time to discuss the issue with your former peer and try to get to the root of the issue. It’s helpful to give them a heads up by letting them know you want to discuss how they feel about the recent organizational changes and check in on how they’re doing at work.
  3. Document your interactions: If your efforts to engage them one-on-one were unsuccessful, it’s time to start gathering evidence. Document any incidents of bullying, including dates, times, and witnesses. Having evidence will be important if you need to escalate the issue to HR.

Dealing with upward bullying is not easy, but it is important to address it as soon as possible. Remember that your feelings and experiences are valid, and there are healthy ways to manage and improve the situation. If you feel unsupported, consider seeking help from a mentor or HR professional. You are not alone, and there are resources available to help you navigate this challenge.

Chris Kidd is the owner of,,, and

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