The word bully conjures up many images. Perhaps, an elementary or middle school playground and physical intimidation. Maybe, in the technological age in which we live, bullies, the cowards they are, hiding behind social media and conducting their campaigns with anonymity but no less vengeance. Seldom, though, when we hear the word bully, do our thoughts turn immediately to the workplace. And yet, bullies exist in the workplace as well. These bullies are a bit more calculating than their schoolyard counterparts. Not often will you find a workplace bully who comes up and pushes you to ground. Instead, these types of bullies take great care to plant the seeds that they hope will 1) lead you to fall in line with their own selfish initiatives or 2) lead to your demise.
The most effective bullies employ a skillful blend of charm and aggression that can carry them to the top of their profession. The below are the basics of how most bullies operate:
Intimidates through verbal aggression and spreads rumors
This verbal aggression could be directed at you in an angry voice but could also be something more insidious said about you that is intended to plant a seed of doubt in someone’s mind. Bullies will often use words such as “obviously” and “you can’t possibly think…” to undermine your credibility and have you second guessing yourself.
Play Mind Games to distort the thinking of others
They keep people off-balance through half-truths, hearsay and misstatements. Their distorted version of events is intended to obscure and confuse the truth. The only truth the bully is interested in is their own that will further their personal initiatives.
It is a very rare bully that will utter the words “I was wrong”. In their mind, it is always someone else’s fault and there is no one quicker to point it out than a workplace bully. They will often claim that they understood all along that the path being pursued was incorrect.
Disguises their true intentions
A bully puts on a good act to gain your trust and respect. They never reveal their true intentions, which are self-serving and at most times harmful to others. They conceal their innermost attitudes and emotions, which are self-absorbed and disrespectful of others. They maintain an image of strength, vision and leadership, and thus avoid exposing their underhanded, manipulative nature.
Pretends to Care
The bully will pretend to care about the employees and the workplace, but their actions will speak louder than words. The bully will make suggestions and want you to carry out actions that are not in line with a strong employee culture built on trust.
Bullies have no place whether it be on the playground, on social media or in the workplace. It is imperative that Human Resources be vigilant in identifying and addressing bullying behavior before the ramifications of high turnover or stress related disabilities start to take their toll.