5 Signs you have a Workplace Bully

Sometimes, unfortunately, the task of identifying and disciplining bullies in the workplace falls into HR’s jurisdiction. The point at which HR should get involved varies depending on the company, but no matter when you are met with complaints of bullying in the workplace, you should know how to decipher personal conflict from abusive behavior. While some behavior is pretty easily identified as bullying, other signs that are less obvious. These tips should provide insight into whether your problem is a tough manager and a sensitive employee, or if you truly have a workplace bully on your hands.

1.  Personal attacks on an employee/s are issued. If an employee repeatedly personally attacks another employee and either the party under siege, or those around them, complain, the person issuing the abuse is a bully, period. If there have been multiple reported incidents of harassment and personal attacks well beyond what is in the realm of constructive criticism, action needs to be taken to correct this behavior. If abusive behavior goes beyond one isolated issue, that person is by definition, a bully.

2. Violent behavior, of any kind, is exhibited.

Violence isn’t merely defined by physical violence, or even threats thereof, it can include a variety of behavior. According to

OSHA’s Field Safety and Health Manual, workplace violence is defined as:

“Threats or other conduct that in any way create a hostile environment, impair Agency operations, or frighten, alarm or inhibit others. Verbal intimidation may include making false statements that are malicious, disparaging, derogatory, disrespectful, abusive, or rude.”

We all know workplace violence is no joke, so take it seriously. If someone goes out of their way to hurt another persons feelings, that’s violent behavior, and needs to be treated as such.

3. Attempts to Intimidate others are Made.

Also defined in the aforementioned OSHA field manual, is the type of behavior that constitutes intimidation. The field manual states:

“Threats or other conduct that in any way create a hostile environment, impair Agency operations, or frighten, alarm or inhibit others. Verbal intimidation may include making false statements that are malicious, disparaging, derogatory, disrespectful, abusive, or rude.”

The need to intimidate others is indicative of a bully. If intimidating behavior is reported, you know you have a bully.

4. When Confronted, the Accused get Angry, or Attempts to shift Responsibility.

When confronting an accused bully with examples of their inappropriate behavior, the way they react is useful in evaluating their true character, according to Holly Latty-Mann, president of executive consulting firm, The Leadership Trust. If the accuser gets mad, appears to be fighting anger, or attempts to blame other people, the accusations are more likely to be true. If the person hasn’t acted inappropriately, they’ll have nothing to worry about.

5. Often Blames others, and takes Majority of Responsibility for all Accomplishments.

In the CBS News Article How to Handle a Workplace Bully in which I quoted Latty-Mann previously, she also explains how to spot a bully by their speech patterns. The frequent use of I, instead of we, when explaining successful projects, is indicative of a workplace bully. If someone is quick to blame others for failures, they are likely to bully others. Just like bully’s at school, those who can’t take responsibility for the bad, but hog all the credit for the good, are acting like bullies.

Conclusion

With nearly half of U.S. workers reporting to  have experienced or seen some form of bullying in the workplace according to a 2007 survey conducted by Zogby International, bullying in the workplace is somewhat inevitable. There are measures you can take however, that can stop it in its tracks. When it comes to workplace bullying, fast action is detrimental. Make sure to take any and all reports of bullying seriously, and follow these tips to determine which action needs to be taken.

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Aaron

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