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Bullying in the Workplace

Workplace bullies generally use words and actions to intimidate their victims. Read about the types of workplace bully and dealing with bullying in the workplace.

A workplace bully may be your boss or your co-worker. Unlike playground bullies who often resort to using their fists, workplace bullies generally use words and actions to intimidate their victims.

Characteristics of Companies with Bullying Problems

High rates of:

  • sick leave
  • dismissals
  • disciplinary suspensions
  • early and health-related retirements
  • disciplinary procedures
  • grievance procedures
  • stress-related illnesses

This company may be more likely to hire security agencies to gather data on employees.

Types of Workplace Bully

Adapted from www.successunlimited.co.uk

Workplace bullies generally use words and actions to intimidate their victims. Read about the types of workplace bully and dealing with bullying in the workplace.Stressed, impulsive or unintentional bully
Occurs when someone is under stress or an institution is undergoing confusing, disorienting changes. This is the easiest to redirect.

Cyber bully
This includes hateful emails and cyber stalking. Some feel that employers who monitor employees' email are using intimidation but this position can be debated. If it is used unfairly, it can be seen as intimidation.

Subordinate bully
Bullying perpetrated by subordinates (such as boss being bullied by an employee, nursing staff being bullied by a patient.)

Serial bully
An individual who repeatedly intimidates or harasses one individual after another. A victim is selected and bullied for an extended period of time until he leaves or asserts himself and goes to Human Resources (HR). The bully deceives HR by being charming while the victim appears emotional and angry. Since there are often no witnesses, HR accepts the account of the senior staff member, possibly a serial bully. The bully may convince the organization to get rid of the troublesome victim. Once the victim is out of the organization, the bully usually needs to find a new victim. This is because the bully needs someone on whom he can project his inner feelings of inadequacy. The bully may prevent others from sharing negative information about him by sowing conflict. If the organization eventually realizes that it has made a mistake, it is difficult for them to publicly admit this. To do so might make them legally liable.

Secondary bully
Others in the office or social group start to react to bullying by imitating or joining in on the behavior. This can lead to institutional bullying. Even if the primary bullying individual is removed, the secondary bullies may fill in the gap because they have learned that this is how to survive in this organization.

Pair bullies
Two individuals, sometimes people who are having as affair, collude to intimidate others. The participation of the second individual may be covert.

Gang bullies
The primary bully gathers a number of followers. He may be a loud, highly visible leader. If he is a quieter sort, his role may be more insidious. Some members of the group may actively enjoy being part of the bullying. They like the reflected power of the primary bully. If the primary bully leaves the organization, and the institution does not change, one of these individuals may step in to fill the shoes of the primary bully. Others of the gang join in because they feel coerced. They fear that if they do not participate, they will be the next victims. Indeed some of these individuals do become victims at some point in time.


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Last Updated: 26 May 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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