The subject of bullying predominates the news headlines in recent years, but, while much is said about the bullying that occurs in the hallways of our schools, little is said of the bullying that exists in the workplace. While corporate bullying may be more discreet than it is in high school, just because adults have learned how to do it artfully doesn’t mean that it isn’t hurtful. Subtle or not, it can be just as detrimental as high school bullying, if not more so, hurting not only feelings, but also employee engagement and productivity. While many companies have made great efforts to cultivate a unique corporate culture to attract and engage employees, putting an end to bullying is even more critical in fostering happy employees who are able to give their best to their company.
Here are a few of the more common types of bullies that are found in the workplace:
- The Water Cooler Gossip
The most common form of bullying that happens in an office environment is the person who likes to spread rumors and gossip. This type of person acts like a friend and confidant; however, they are the classic “frenemy”, all grown up (but not more mature). When the co-worker is not around, this person will destroy their “friend’s” reputation and stab them in the back. They like to take any piece of gossip that they hear and twist it to suit their own needs. By spreading rumors, they create discord amongst their fellow employees and sabotage the trust that should exist between colleagues working towards a common goal.
- The Idea-Stealer
This type of person is often the most devious. They hang around people’s desks or sit intently in the breakroom listening to everything that is being said. When a good idea is being discussed by fellow employees, they will rush to the boss and present the idea as their own. Nothing kills creativity like not getting credit for being creative, watching someone else get rewarded for your good idea.
- The Egomaniac
This person is often well-spoken and charismatic. This type of bully may be the boss, a top salesperson, or a mid-level manager. They don’t care about the office morale, as long as things suit them. It is not uncommon for this type of person to step on other people or make decisions that actually harm the company’s bottom line, because, to them, their ego is more important than money or the success of the company, even if they own it. This person has no true feelings for others and does not care who they hurt along the way to getting what they want. They are such master manipulators that they often get other employees to unwittingly help them, in order to achieve their goals, creating office adversaries, pitting the people who are under their spell against the people who have the interests of the company and clients at heart.
- The Micromanager
It can be a wonderful thing to get input on a project. Receiving guidance or advice from a colleague or supervisor can play a pivotal role in growing as an employee, creating a team spirit, and delivering world-class projects. However, there are times when it goes too far. When someone is micromanaged, they are constantly receiving the message that they are not trusted, their ideas are not valued, and that they are not as good as someone else. Instead of blossoming, they wither.
- The Too-Connected Colleague
This is the bully who belittles you because you are not like them when it comes to office communications. They are constantly checking their emails and messages and then put you down because you don’t know that latest bit of office information. If they are a supervisor, they may act as though the fact that you weren’t checking your emails at dinner on a Friday night—even after you put in 70 hours that week—is proof of your patent laziness. Not answering your phone while you are boarding a plane to go to a conference, because you’re struggling with your baggage? Unforgiveable. I read a story once of an executive who did not have a phone signal while he was on the Subway, and, by the time he reemerged above ground, he had been fired.
This person doesn’t understand the concept of improving productivity through batching or the fact that you may be working on an actual project, instead of tending to your inbox. Explain the 80/20 principle to them, and they will look at you blankly. Not only does this person prevent any real work from getting done, they send the message that your personal life and your projects at work are not nearly as important as being at their beck-and-call, damaging productivity and morale.
- The Old-Boys’ Club Colleague
This type of bully usually targets the female employees of the office. They remember the “good ol’ days”, when men ran the office and women answered the phone. They often resent that fact that females are now their equals and often superiors. They can often be found to sabotage a female’s work in order to make her look incompetent. Although there are fewer of these types of bullies still remaining, in offices where these relics remain, women feel hopeless and are less encouraged to give their best effort, because they will, inevitably, be passed over for raises and promotions.
- The Head Boss in Charge
In society, the biggest bullies of the all are those who have the most power. Even though the office boss is not worried about his job or advancement, the boss has the most power and, sometimes, that power goes to their head. Those guilty of this use intimidation to watch what the reaction of their employees. They like singling an employee out during meetings to see how the employee handles the situation or demeans the employee’s work and ideas, in order to get other employees to see them in a negative light. They will often see how far they can manipulate an employee with threats of losing their jobs or demotions.
Bullying has become an epidemic in so many walks of life. It is unfortunate, but it still happens. Knowing a little more about the types of bullies that exist in the workplace will hopefully allow employees to recognize the signs and put a stop to it before it becomes too serious. For anyone in a position to change things in the office, foster a better working environment, ensuring that productivity and morale remain high and that one manipulative employee does not lead to the departure of other employees, when they have finally had enough. If any employee comes to you about an office bullying situation, be open and receptive to what they have to say.
Jeff Bearden is a motivational speaker who inspires audiences to get back on their feet after setbacks, develop a strong sense of self-worth, and overcome the many hurdles that they face in life, whether they are at school, in the workplace, or in relationships. As a professional wrestler for over 25 years-working under the names “Giant Warrior” and “Tiger Steele”-Bearden entertained audiences all over the world, including audiences of over 75,000. His message is as powerful as his seven-foot stature: no matter where you are in your life and no matter what cards life has dealt you, you can get back on your feet and thrive.