Volume 101, October 2009: Workplace Bullying

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2009 ISSN # 1545-8873

In the 100th issue survey feedback, my readers convinced me that Keyzine should continue (thanks for your encouragement!) All is well with my health. Keyzine will continue as a Quarterly!

“All cruelty springs from weakness.” — Seneca, ABC-AD65

“Those who can do. Those who can’t, bully.” — Bullyonline.org

“The truth is incontrovertible: malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” — Winston Churchill

“Most organisations have a serial bully. It never ceases to amaze me how one person’s divisive dysfunctional behaviour can permeate the entire organisation like a cancer.” — Tim Field


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Zero tolerance for bullying or harassment.
  • Teaching people to say “stop” or “no” to uncivil conduct.
  • Being sensitive to the effects of fear and intimidation tactics at work.
  • Not killing the messenger, when employees bring forth the perception of bullying – personally or witnessed.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

Bullies terrorize workplaces. Often the Bully holds a top position, and the bullied Targets are reluctant to complain. They see no illegality or corporate policy that protects them, so they suffer in silence. Many develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Or if they come forth to complain, they are often labeled as troublemakers. Estimates are that as many as one-fourth of the workforce is bullied and 70% leave a job because of bullying.

The unwillingness to recognize and call out mistreatment of employees causes immense damage, in the losses of productivity, morale, and community – basically, a pathway of destruction has been plowed through your organization. It hurts business in more ways than you could know.

Frequently Asked Questions

“What is bullying?”
According to the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute, workplace bullying is “repeated, health-harming mistreatment, verbal abuse, or conduct which is threatening, humiliating, intimidating, or sabotage that interferes with work or some combination of the three.”
Workplace bullying:
  • Is driven by perpetrators’ need to control the targeted individual(s).
  • Is initiated by bullies who choose their targets, timing, location and methods.
  • Escalates to involve others who side with the bully either voluntarily (or) through coercion.
  • Undermines legitimate business interests when bullies’ personal agendas take precedence over work itself.
  • Is domestic violence at work where the abuser is on the payroll.

See WBI’s Definition of Workplace Bullying.

“What symptoms are we to look for in workplace bullies?”
Bullying is usually more psychological than physical. Look for these qualities:
  • Operates by power and control
  • Strong need to control, dominate, subjugate
  • Quickness to anger
  • Addiction to aggressive behaviors and seeing other’s behavior toward them as such
  • Concern with preserving self-image
  • Preys on weaker, more vulnerable victims
  • Deliberate hostility or aggression toward the victim(s)
  • Charismatic and charming at times
  • Denial and projection
  • Paranoia and victimhood
  • Manipulative
  • Lacking in insight, though often intelligent and cunning

The serial bully, often found to have a personality disorder, has further extensive criteria. See Bully Online’s “The serial bully”.

“What about company policies?”
Unrecognized bullying drives people out of job and ruins the quality of their lives. Claims of “Going Postal” have been attributed to being the Target of bullying.
Policies pertaining to intolerance for harassment, hostility and intimidating work environment apply here. A clear grievance process should be spelled out.
The organization should publish Codes of Conduct (including the Golden Rule) with consequences for infractions.
Every offense should be investigated in confidential interviews with open questions, the results fed back to the perpetrator, and when behavior is not impacted, be prepared to let them go.
“Can people be trained to reckon with bullying? What do I tell them?”
Avoid being a target. Take the bully off stage. Stand up, look them on the eye, and with a firm tone of voice, say Stop. Be assertive, not aggressive. For example:
  • “I don’t mind your being mad, but I don’t appreciate your calling me names.”
  • Hold up your hand and say Stop. “I would like to help you, but I cannot, if we continue in this unprofessional manner.”
  • “Excuse me, have I done anything to offend you? Please tell me what it is, so that we may work on it.”
  • “That’s it. I’ve had enough. If we cannot be civil in our communication, I will be forced to report this to my superiors.”

Please see Responses to bullying.

Exercises And Action Items:

  • Establish a company policy that is lean – allowing grievances to be surfaced and resolved swiftly. Be sure that everyone knows that retaliation for filing a complaint is unacceptable.
  • Teach people to document instances – specific, behavioral examples with dates, circumstances, and witnesses.


HR tools, training, and techniques: Stop Bullies Before They Do Real Damage.

Izzy offers a psychological solution to bullying: Bullies2Bullies.

Bullies Be Gone: Stop Bullies: Will Knowing Why Bullies Keep Abusing Us Help Us Stop Them?.

Key Associates offers Mediation of Conflict, and training for leaders in this skill. Also courses on “Dealing with Difficult People” (and Customers) and “Harassment in the Workplace.” Contact us for more information.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

A goldmine of insight on workplace bullying: Bullying at Work.

International Bullying Prevention Association.

Helping Kids Deal with Bullies, What is Bullying?, Dealing with Bullies and How Not to be One, and Classroom Bullying Surveys.

Keyzines on related topics: Mediating Conflict, Dealing with Difficult People, Valuing Diversity, Cynicism, Driving Out Fear, Having Difficult Conversations, Harassment, On the Dark Side of Leadership, Constructive Confrontation, Toxic People, Civility, and Learning to Say No.



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