Bullying in the Workplace

Much of the material below is taken from Diane Stafford(1)

No position or seniority is immune.

The International Crime Survey of the International Labor Organization polled workers about job-related bullying. In some of the 32 countries, about half of the workers questioned said they had been victims and three-fourths said they had witnessed it.

Boss Subordinate: The boss can exert power through control of assignments, raises,


Peer Peer: A peer can exert power through deceit, manipulation, control of

information, rumor.

Subordinate Boss: The subordinate can exert power by taking advantage of personal

connections; through a higher level of knowledge, training, expertise; by

taking advantage of a boss who avoids controversy and filling a void in

leadership skills.

Psychologists say bullies are people in pain.

The typical bully may have low self-esteem. This requires making others feel subordinate and requires actions and attitudes which make the bully feel more in control and powerful at the expense of the victim who is weakened.

Beware: Bullies are experts at expressing a grievance in terms that put the victim in the wrong and him/herself in place as the wounded person.

Conflict resolution expert Erik Van Slyke says you can't out-argue a bully. The bully's fight or flight mechanism kicks in. He/she goes on the defensive, and will win. The Bully's had more practice at it. Van Slyke says you must figure out what the bully wants and needs.(2)

Not every bully responds in the same way to counteraction.

How to combat:(3)

The bully in the workplace may have many targets. The most effective combatant is the power of the organization. That might take the entire staff--or the right person in the chain of command.

If that fails - or if the bully is the owner or big chief - and there isn't anyone left to assist, then it might be time to look for another job or quit.

1. Diane Stafford, At Work, "Bullying ruins the Workplace" The Kansas City Star, 07/01/99

2. Erik Van Slyke, Listening to Conflict: Finding Constructive Solutions to Workplace Disputes; quoted by Diane Stafford, At Work, "Bullying ruins the Workplace," The Kansas City Star, 07/01/99

3. Bing, Stanley, "Esquire Magazine"; from Diane Stafford, At Work, "Bullying ruins the Workplace" The Kansas City Star, 07/01/99