Friday, April 3, 2009

Workplace Bullies Are Acting up During the Recession

Dr. Bertice Berry, sociologist and author calls them “internal terrorists." Workplace bullies, Berry says, "are people who don't understand their own purpose or potential, and because they don't, they try to destroy the purpose and potential of someone else. They would make things wrong to prove that they are right.”

Have you seen workplace bullies in action recently? Seems some people have.

If you have to deal with workplace bullies at the office, you mostly chalk it up to one of the annoyances of the job and not let it affect your work. In some cases when it turns into a you-go-or-I-go situation, some people do walk away from the office, the department or the company. You know the old cliché – people don’t leave jobs they leave managers and the people they work with. Well that is easier said than done when there are more people than available jobs.

It is becoming the you-go-before-I-go .

That was the essence of the conversation by the couple in the check-out line behind me at Trader Joe’s yesterday! One shopper was telling the other about the undue pressure she was feeling from an office bully who was intimidating newer staff to push them out. She stated that this bully was telling junior staff about positions in other departments for which they should apply. The bully had apparently gone so far as to tell two newer employees, that she had not been in agreement with them being hired since she knew that they would unnecessarily stress the company financially.

I guess I have been so focused on encouraging folks to stay positive and pay kindness forward, that I wasn’t thinking about workplace bullies who try to intimidate others out of a job in an effort to keep their own.

One of the newer employees was afraid to take the issue to management, for fear it put a spotlight on him as a troublemaker.

It crossed my mind that the person telling the story may have been misreading the situation. Is it really bullying or is someone just strategically trying to manage their own career? Is it an unsophisticated attempt to try the if-you-go-then-maybe-I-don't-have-to-go strategy?

It sounds like the real possibility does exist that in a tight job market, the workplace bully in some people might be rearing it's ugly head.



Marianna said...

Regardless of economy, the bully is still the bully.

Fear drives the bully...and that is internal to him or her. Whether it is a fear of job loss, or a fear that they will never be good enough or a fear of ???, they do what they know how to do, as wrong as it may be.

This can be changed, if the bully recognizes that fear is at the basis of the behaviour.

Anonymous said...

So how do you deal with the bully in these cases. When we are fortunate to still be employed in these economic times, rocking the boat is the last thing to be considered, but this means the bully lives on......

Marcia said...


You are so right about fear being the motivating factor behind the bully's behavior. It took me a while to figure that out. From my experience, once the bully realize's that you know what they are about, they move on to fresh meat.

The worse thing is really when management turns a blind eye to what they know is going on.

Marcie said...

I would really have a confidential conversation with HR about what is happening. If you feel you are being harrassed by a bully:
- have a confidentail conversation with HR
- keep records and notes on the intimidation

Although one might not want to bring attention to themselves, it is important to say something to HR, since it starts the clock so-to-speak. If it does get worse, the last thing you want is for company officials to say, they didn't know this was happening.


Anonymous said...

I totaly agree, but where does an employee turn when HR are very close with the bully. The bully in this case is a senior manager? It is a tricky one and easier to let slide...