Bullies At Work

By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.©  2008 High Conflict Institute

Workplace bullying is a growing international problem. It is more than a one-time incident. It is a pattern of behavior between a bully and another worker which can demoralize, isolate and trigger illness in the target of the bully. What is bullying? Who does it? Is it increasing? What can you do to protect yourself? And what can employers do to promote a safe environment for employees? This short article attempts to answer some of these key questions. My perspective is that of a therapist, mediator, and attorney handling “high conflict” disputes in a variety of settings.

What is Workplace Bullying? In many ways, it is similar to playground bullying; except that as adults it should no longer be an issue. It is aggressive behavior that should be personally contained, but for some reason is not. Bullying involves more than one incident of aggressive negative behavior. It is a repeated pattern of negative behavior that usually involves a bully with more power or the convincing appearance of more power. Bullying can include acts that are intimidating, humiliating, and isolating and can be verbal or physical, blatant or subtle, active or passive. (Lutgen-Sandvik, 2006.)

The underlying message is that the bully can and will keep engaging in unwanted, negative behavior which you are powerless to stop. This sense of powerlessness grows and the target begins to feel bad about himself or herself, as well as frightened of the bully. Bullying appears to go on in an environment that tolerates or rewards hostile behavior without intervening. The effect on the “target” of bullying can be devastating, and there is substantial research which shows that targets can experience a wide range of related illnesses, from depression and loss of sleep to intestinal disorders and  ... click here to read the full article