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5 Signs You're the Bully at Work

5 Signs You're the Bully at Work
Credit: Kues/Shutterstock

As much as organizations don't like to admit it, there are bullies in many workplaces. The Workplace Bullying Institute defines bullying as "repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons by one or more perpetrators." This can include threatening, humiliating or intimidating conduct; workplace interference that prevents work from getting done; or verbal abuse.

"I believe the basic driver of bullying is to make the bully 'better than' the targets," said Chris Edmonds, author of "The Culture Engine: A Framework for Driving Results, Inspiring Your Employees, and Transforming Your Workplace" (John Wiley & Sons, Sept. 2014). "Bullying boils down to the bully's desire to have power and control over others in the workplace."

Sometimes a bully may not even realize that he or she is abusing his or her co-workers. If you exhibit any of the following behaviors, you might be guilty of being the workplace bully, said Edmonds. [Bullying in the Office: Why You Need a Policy]

  • Acting out. Bullies often lose their temper, yelling and screaming at the target. The anxiety caused by this aggressive behavior has been shown to cause mental and physical health issues in targets and in those who observe the bullying in the workplace.
  • Name-calling. Bullies love to discount the target's work, efforts and contributions by calling the person names, like "stupid" and "teacher's pet."
  • Gossiping. Bullies spread rumors or gossip that inhibits teamwork or the target's credibility.
  • Refusal to work with targets. Instead of working with others, bullies vastly prefer to act against them. The bully may have a group that he or she gets along with, but the bully will never work with a target.
  • "Jekyll and Hyde" treatment. The bully engages in intimidation at times when the target is vulnerable and unobserved by others. When the bully and target are in view of others, especially by a boss, the bully acts kind and cooperative. This situational bad behavior undermines the target's ability to raise concerns about the unseen bullying.

If you think your colleagues might see you as a bully, it's wise to try to make amends and re-establish positive workplace relationships. However, this is easier said than done.

"Bullying behavior erodes trust and respect between the bully and targets," Edmonds told Business News Daily. "To make amends, it requires sustained, consistent effort by the bully to regain the lost trust and respect. Too frequently the bully is unable to resist the temptation to bully again. It can happen — it's just extremely rare."

If amends are to be attempted, Edmonds advised taking these three steps with your co-workers:

  1. Recognize and take responsibility for your actions. This means admitting to the bad behavior, willingly and openly, to everyone affected by your bullying behavior. The apology may not be accepted at first, but you must continue down this path to attempt to make amends.
  2. Hold feedback sessions with your boss. Your supervisor can help gather perceptions from your teammates, past targets, internal customers, and even external customers, to gain accurate insights into your current behavior patterns.
  3. Seek external help. Engage with a professional coachto examine why you have used bullying tactics in the past. Discovering the root causes of your bullying behavior might help you disengage from such behavior in the future.

Originally published on Business News Daily

Nicole Fallon

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. Nicole served as the site's managing editor until January 2018, and briefly ran Business.com's copy and production team. Follow her on Twitter.