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Workplace Bullying: The Face of a Bully


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Targets of workplace bullies can be anyone, anywhere. There is no particularly easy-to-spot, pick-me-as-a-target stereotype; however, there are some characteristics bullies look for in their targets.

Not every person with these characteristics will be the target of a bully, but, you are more apt to be targeted if you have these characteristics.

Let’s do a quick review of these five characteristics discussed in the workplace bullying article titled Characteristics Bullies Look For And Why They Bully:

  1. Independent – Bullies cannot stand independence because they need to control their target; independence is a threat that needs to be met with an increase in hatred and intimidation to regain control over their target.
  2. More Technically Skilled – Anyone more technically skilled than the bully is a threat to their self-perceived role as most technically skilled employee. Targets often are the person new employees turn to for guidance and bullies cannot stand to share credit with anyone else who shows talent. Bullies will often find ways to steal the credit from their more skilled target.
  3. Better Liked – Socially skilled, friendly people are feared by workplace bullies. Friendly coworkers, and the warmth these individuals bring to the workplace, are appreciated by everyone from customers to management. This type of coworker is a threat to the less socially skilled bully.
  4. Ethical and Honest – The most easily exploited target is an individual possessing the desire to help, heal, teach, develop, and nurture others around them. For the most part, targets are not schemers or slimy con artists; most of the time they are guileless. A likely target is one who possesses strong ethics and refuses to let individuals or companies get away with less-than-ethical behaviors. A whistle-blower is a good example of this type of target.
  5. Non-Confrontational – Seemingly submissive behavior when confronted with aggression only encourages a workplace bully to repeat their bullying; meeting aggression with aggression is not how this target operates. A non-confrontational target pays a price for their seemingly submissive behavior. The bully will feel he or she can continue to act with impunity as long as nothing is done, by the employer, to stop the bullying behavior.

Workplace bullies come in all shapes, sizes, and appearances. They also occupy all levels of the workforce. No one type of job or level of responsibility breeds bullies more than any other. We have reviewed the characteristics bullies look for in their targets, and now it’s time to uncover the face of a bully, as outlined by Bully Online in an article titled, Who is Behind Workplace Bullying?, and find out what characteristics workplace bullies possess. Remember, not everyone possessing these characteristics is a bully, however, the majority of workplace bullies will display several of the following traits:

Along with characteristics that many bullies have, listed below is a partial list of the most common tactics workplace bullies use compiled by the Workplace Bullying Institute in an article titled Top 25 Workplace Bullying Tactics. The top 16 tactics, listed from most common to least common, are as follows:

  1. Falsely accuses the person of making errors when errors were not made (71 percent)
  2. Stared, glared, nonverbally intimidating, showed clear hostility (68 percent)
  3. Discounts an individual’s thoughts or feelings in meetings (64 percent)
  4. Uses the “silent treatment” to put distance between self and others (64 percent)
  5. Indulged in seemingly uncontrollable mood swings in front of others (61 percent)
  6. Makes up rules on the fly but doesn’t follow them (61 percent)
  7. Discredited satisfactory or exemplary qualities of completed work despite evidence to the contrary (58 percent)
  8. Harsh and constant criticism, to the target, for having a different standard (57 percent)
  9. Started, or failed to stop, destructive rumors or gossip about the target (56 percent)
  10. Encourages others to turn against the target (55 percent)
  11. Socially or physically singles out and isolates one person from coworkers (54 percent)
  12. In public, displays gross, undignified, but not illegal behavior (53 percent)
  13. Humiliates target by yelling, screaming, throwing tantrums in front of others (53 percent)
  14. Plagiarized and stole credit for work done by others (47 percent)
  15. Lied on evaluations about a person’s performance (46 percent)
  16. Labels target as insubordinate for not following arbitrary commands (46 percent)

Understanding some of the common tactics workplace bullies use allows you a better chance at spotting the workplace bully before they target you. Workplace bullies generally exhibit at least several of the five characteristics of bullies. Being aware of these characteristics before you run up against them, can give you strength to resist bullying tactics.

No one likes bullies whether they are at home, on the school grounds, or at work. Long-term stress of being subjected to workplace bullying can have you feeling like you are going crazy. Rest assured, you are not going crazy.

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