Bullies at work can ruin a culture, destroy productivity and make your life miserable. Many people focus only on bullying bosses, but I’ve seen just as many coworkers and employees use these bullying methods as I have managers and supervisors. Before you read the top ten I’ve seen, please think for a moment. What bullying methods used by whom, have you seen most? Have you seen these techniques ruining your workplace?
- Yelling, physical threats (overt or subtle) and personal attacks.
- Verbal abuse, emotional intimidation, personal insults and attacks (in private and in public). Put-downs and humiliating, demeaning, rude, cruel, insulting, mocking and embarrassing comments. False accusations (especially outrageous), character assassination.
- Harassing based on race, religion, gender and physical attributes. Sexual contact, lewd suggestions, name-calling, teasing and personal jokes (sometimes overtly nasty, or threatening or sometimes given with laughter as in, “I was just kidding” in order to make it hard for you to fight back.
- Backstabbing, spreading rumors and gossip, manipulating, lying, distorting, evading, hypocrisy and exposing your problems and mistakes.
- Taking the credit; spreading the blame. Withholding information and then cutting you down for not knowing or for failing.
- Anonymous attacks and cyber-bullying – flaming e-mails and porn. Invading your personal space and privacy – rummaging through your desk, listening to phone calls, asking extremely personal questions, eating your food.
- Hypersensitive, over-reactions, throwing tantrums (drama queens) – so you walk on egg shells, back off in order to avoid a scene, or beg forgiveness as if you really did something wrong.
- Dishonest evaluations – praising and promoting favorites, giving slackers good evaluations and destroying careers of people the bully doesn’t like.
- Demeaning at meetings – interrupting, ignoring, laughing, non-verbal comments behind your back (rude noises, body language, facial gestures, answering phone, working on computer).
- Forming cliques and ganging up. Turf wars about budgets, hiring, copiers and coffee machines.
Most bullies use combinations of these methods.
We’ve all seen the effects of bullies and the hostile workplace they create. There’s increased hostility, tension, selfishness, turf wars, sick leave, stress related disabilities, turn over and legal actions. People become isolated, do busy work with no important results and waste huge chunks of time talking about the latest episodes. Effort is diffused instead of aligned. Promotions are based on sucking up to the most difficult and nasty people, not on merit.
Teamwork, productivity, responsibility, efficiency, creativity and taking reasonable risks are decreased. The best people leave as soon as they can.
The wrong people or the wrong culture can always find ways to destroy the best operational systems. Your pipeline will leak money and your profits will plummet.
I’ll go into solutions in future posts, but I want to mention one frequently used tactic that does not work to stop dedicated bullies. It’s based on the false assumption that if we – educate, explain, understand, reason, show the consequences, accept, forgive or make enough attempts to satisfy bullies – then they will become reasonable, civil, professional, friendly and good to work with. That approach only stops people who are not really bullies, but have forgotten themselves one time and behaved badly.
Determined bullies don’t take your acquiescence as kindness. They take your giving in as weakness and an invitation to grab for more. Bullies bully repeatedly and without real remorse. You won’t get a sincere apology from them. A sincere apology doesn’t mean anything about how they look. It means that they change and stop bullying.
I’d like to hear your horror or success stories.