Guest post: Grown-up Bullies are Found at the Workplace

What happens to bullies when they grow up? That was the question posed by Dr. Dan Olweus, an expert on bullying from the University of Bergen, who followed a small group of kids in Norway, from grade six to nine and later to age 24. He documented the connection between bullying and criminal activity later in life and showed that 60 percent of those who were bullied in grades six and/or nine had at least one criminal conviction by age 24.

Another research study in England found that about one in every five boys who saw themselves as ‘somewhat of a bully’ at age 14, continued to report being a bully at age 32. The majority, 61 percent of the group, were considered highly aggressive. And 20 percent of them had already been convicted of at least one crime.

But some of them end up in an important position. They are in constant contact with other people over whom they have professional control. And they haven’t changed much. They still enjoy putting people down.

All the psychological explanations aside – about a bully being insecure and lacking – you still have to deal with bullying in the workplace. And this is a very delicate problem that can change lives and can be very costly.

What is a workplace bully?

  • When your boss puts you down in front of others. When no matter how hard you’ve worked and how well you’ve produced, he finds you still not good enough.
  • What can you do when he verbally abuses you? When he feels he owns you and can do anything with you and your time?
  • The bully boss is usually over-controlling, micromanaging and displaying contempt for others.
  • He doesn’t just differ with you, he differs with you contemptuously.

Let’s face it. The bully must be doing something right to be kept in his position. Bullying is very rampant in high-tech companies, engineering firms, financial institutions and the arts where the bully boss has made some significant contribution to the company, brought in enough business/money and therefore was promoted and has authority over others.

The cost of bullying in the workplace

The cost of bullying in the workplace is sometimes unseen but eventually will come up to the surface.

  • Subordinate turnover is one way a bully may cost the company money, time and loss of productivity.
  • Hurting morale, poisoning the atmosphere and lowering productivity of the whole company, is another way.
  • Innovation is stalled as well. People do not come up with new ideas in fear of being ridiculed.
  • For the victim, the price is even higher: being subjected to constant berating hurts the person’s self-esteem, self-worth and professional standing. The subject of the bullying has a tough decision to make: Is the money important enough to have his soul crushed?

In some societies, the answer is no. In others, people are asked to tolerate and go on. They are asked to consider work as an unpleasant part of life. “What can you do?” they say, “If you complain about it, most likely you’ll be told to work it out with the bully.”

And that’s exactly what should be done.

What to do with a workplace bully?

  • Confidence is the single best thing against bullying.
  • As with kids, bullies in the workplace have blind spots. They don’t see themselves accurately. They see themselves as better than others. Confront the bully and let him/her know that you will not put up with this kind of behavior.
  • Sometimes bullies, being less sensitive to the feeling of others, don’t even feel what they are doing.  Some external shake-up might put them on the correct track.
  • Conduct the confrontation in private, behind closed doors. The bully usually doesn’t back down in front of an audience.
  • Standing up for yourself by yourself can stop the bullying by earning you the bully’s respect. But it can also cost you your job. If you can’t do it by yourself, find some allies and confront the bully together. It will be more difficult to replace all of you.

Grown up bullying is found in many workplaces and has been recognized as a trend in occupational hazards. Each organization has its own ways to deal with bullying, but remember, “A bully can’t bully if you don’t let yourself be bullied”.


About the Author

Patrick Del Rosario is part of the team behind Open Colleges, one of Australia’s pioneer and leading providers of Management Courses and certificate iv in training and assessment. When not working, Patrick enjoys blogging about career and business. Patrick is also a photography enthusiast and is currently running a photography studio in the Philippines. If you have a blog and would like free content, you can find him on Google+.