“How can just one person create such deep wounds that it’s taken us five months to heal a workplace,” I was asked.  Many people have trouble admitting that someone can be the correct answer to, “How many negative, abusive, bullies does it take to destroy everyone’s productivity” or “How many rotten apples does it take to spoil a whole barrel” or “How many overlooked cancer cells does it take to start a fatal tumor?” To read the rest of this article from the Denver Business Journal, see: How to Stop Bullies at Work: Ten Tips to Recognize Them


Notice that when you nod your head in recognition of the “bad apples” you’ve known, we’re both denying many people’s fundamental assumptions that everyone is good and reasonable underneath; we can rehabilitate everyone; we’re supposed to care enough to keep trying and not remove them from work until we’re absolutely, objectively certain that they’re relentless, permanent bullies and we should give up.

Instead, we’re accepting that bullying and bad attitudes will spread and destroy the whole workplace.

I’m talking about the few employees (and bosses) who haven’t learned by the time they’re adults and who won’t be rehabilitated in the time and effort your team or organization can afford at work.  The pain and harm caused by those “bad apples” is the price you pay for ignoring the early warning signs and giving them too much time and too many chances

Top ten early warning signs of bullying, “bad apples” are:

  1. They’re utterly convinced that they’re absolutely right about anything they think is important; their opinions, attitudes, interpretations, excuses, justifications, agendas are right; they can do exactly what they want at work because they’re absolutely right; problems are never their fault.
  2. They’re totally focused on themselves; clueless and uncaring about what most of us consider appropriate, professional behavior and how other people will feel in response to their bullying.
  3. They leave bossy, demanding, abusive notes insisting that what they want gets done, with no consideration for the other person’s schedules or deadlines.  They think their notes are polite.
  4. They’re also oblivious to how the other person reacted to what they said, what the other person wanted and why, what the other person thought of them. Or they're hypersensitive, over-reactive bullies.
  5. They don’t acknowledge the pain they cause and they defend themselves and their favorites ferociously.
  6. They’re perfectionists; always negative and complaining; seeing things in right-or-wrong; making “to-do” lists with over 300 items. They feel victimized and eagerly blame others or “the system” at work.
  7. They obsessively track or blow up little things, lose sight of what’s important; ignore what everyone else is upset about.
  8. To flatter themselves, they only get the part of a message they agree with. Or in order to feel righteously indignant, they hear only the part of a message that will infuriate them.
  9. They kiss up to those above and step on those below them.
  10. They’re skilled at harassing, abusing and isolating people at work, organizing cliques to make war on their enemies, or finding scapegoats to direct the attention away from them.

They’re the 10% of the people you waste 90% of your time on.  If you think you’re the only one having these problems with them, check around and you’ll find that almost everyone else at work is also.  They spread their bullying around.

The problem is chronic; they don’t get it, they don’t change.  You’ll know you were right to remove them when everyone starts breathing deeply, smiling and walking uprightly again.  Act swiftly to protect yourself and the rest of your workplace.

Often, individuals need coaching and organizations need consulting to help them design and implement an anti-bullying plan that fits the situation at work.  To get the help you need, call Ben at 1-877-828-5543.