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How to Recognize Workplace Bullying and Shut It Down Fast

8 bully types that you need to know about

You remember Billy, right? He stood at least six inches taller than you, could run faster than anyone else, and his sweet spot was under the bridge, after school, fists up and ready to duke it out.

Shit, he was a terror!

I remained off his radar for most of the school years and keep him charmed with talk of BMX bicycles and other subjects he fancied. Other kids with no gift for gab weren’t so lucky as I watched him brawl his way through middle school like a Marine in training.

They were bullies in grade school, high school into college, and are now in the business world. If you’re rolling your eyes now with a person’s name on your lip and feelings of panic, you know what I’m talking about.

The good news is they’re now being recognized as productivity killers and potential legal threats to employers with policy preventing hostile work environments.

Research claims one in every three employees will experience bullying at work with an estimated cost of more than $200 billion a year because of decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and high turnover.

That’s a lot of money spent on childhood antics. A partial rundown of the corrosive effects of workplace bullying:

  • Decreased morale and loyalty

  • Potential increases in insurance and workers’ comp premiums.

  • Negative effects on the company’s image

  • Higher absenteeism, sick time and employee turnover

  • Increased costs because of recruitment and retraining

  • Indirect costs though time spent dealing with bullying situations

  • Reduced productivity, efficiency, and profitability

  • Increased workers’ comp claims

  • Potential fines for not abiding by occupational health and safety laws

  • Legal costs from employees who bring lawsuits that is not necessarily a legal issue

Occasionally, however, behaviors commonly associated with bullying often overlap with other behaviors that are illegal, so exercise caution to determine what is harassment or bias.

Here is a list of the 8 most common bully personalities:

1. The Constant Critic

This bully’s goal is to dismantle other people’s confidence through constant — and often unwarranted — criticism. A critic will look for any flaw in someone’s work and labors tirelessly to kill that person’s credibility. Impeccable work? No problem: This type of bully isn’t above falsifying documents or creating evidence to make others look bad.

2. The Screaming Mimi

This is the most easily recognizable type of workplace bully. Screaming Mimis are obnoxious, and their abusive behavior berates and humiliate people. They thrive on the notion that others fear them.

3. The Sociopath

Intelligent, well-spoken, charismatic, sociopaths are the most destructive bullies of all. Reason: They have absolutely no empathy for others, yet they are experts at manipulating the emotions of others in order to get what they want. These bullies often rise to positions of power within the company, which makes them extremely dangerous. Sociopaths surround themselves with a circle of lackeys who will do their dirty work for moving up the ranks with them.

4. The Guru

There’s nothing wrong with this bully’s work performance. In fact, it’s not unusual for others to consider a Guru an expert in his or her own niche area. What these bullies offer in technical skill, however, they severely lack in emotional maturity. Gurus see themselves as being superior to their co-workers. As a result, they don’t consider how their actions will affect others, aren’t able to fathom the possibility that they can be wrong and don’t accept responsibility for their own actions. In addition, because these bullies feel as though they’re “above it all,” they don’t always feel compelled to follow the same rules as everybody else.

5. The Attention Seeker

This type of bully wants to be the center of the action at all times. They’ll try to get on their superior’s good side through consistent flattery and even come on as kind and helpful to their peers — especially the newer employees. However, if co-workers don’t provide the right amount of attention, these bullies can quickly turn on them. Attention seekers are often overly dramatic and relate everything to something that’s going wrong in their own lives to garner sympathy and control. These bullies also have a tendency to coax personal info out of new employees — only to use it against them later.

6. The Two-Headed Snake

To a co-worker’s face, this employee acts like a trusted friend or colleague. However, when the co-worker is out of earshot, this person will destroy his colleague’s reputation, stab him in the back and even take credit for his work.

7. The Wannabe

This is an employee who sees himself or herself as absolutely indispensable and expects recognition for everything. But Wannabes aren’t usually very good at their jobs. To compensate, these bullies spend a majority of their time watching more competent workers and looking for areas of skilled workers’ performance to complain about. Wannabes will demand that everything is done their way — even when there are better ways of doing things. Because they’re automatically opposed to others’ ideas, they’ll do everything in their power to prevent changes to their work processes.

8. The Gatekeeper

Every office has at least one employee who gets off on wielding his or her power over others — regardless of whether that power is real or perceived. Gatekeepers deny people the tools they need — whether it’s resources, time, or information — to do their jobs efficiently.

So what do I do now?

The best defense a company can have against workplace bullying is a clearly worded policy that prohibits any type of bullying behavior.

As always, if you’re experiencing bullying, document everything clearly with times and who witnessed the behaviors and incidents. Inform the Human Resources department and/or your manager of the exact behavior that is happening.

Avoid any conversation about feelings, or attitudes you assume the bully has and stick to the incidents that are causing problems.

Also document who may witness the unwarranted behaviors.

Photo by Dee @ Copper and Wild on Unsplash

Here are some components every good anti-bullying policy should include:

  1. Definition of what I consider bullying — along with a list of some actual behaviors that meet the definition.

  2. Outline of how employees can report bullying, including guidance on what to do when the bully is the manager.

  3. Detailed explanation of the complaint and investigation process that will take place.

  4. “No retaliation” clause to help employees feel safe about reporting problem behavior.

  5. List of consequences of violating the anti-bullying rules.

If you or a friend or family member is struggling with their workplace interactions, please take action.

Often these scenarios are cleared with gentle guidance on self-confidence, negative beliefs about yourself or proper forming of boundaries.

Wishing you a happy and healthy work environment and hopefully, you’ve made good friends with (your) “Billy”.


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