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Sunday, 10 July 2016

Am I being bullied? 25 tactics used by serial bullies: Safety@Work

Am I being bullied? 25 tactics used by bullies.

This article is the first of a series on how to recognise & interrupt online & offline workplace bullying

Next week I’ll be writing about the strategies currently used to stop workplace bullying, and their efficacy.

Yesterday I received an email from ‘Dan’ who asked, ‘Am I being bullied, or am I just being neurotic and dumb?’ 

The behaviours he described included being falsely accused of making work-related errors, being talked over or stared at during meetings, and ‘walking on eggshells’ because the perpetrator’s 90 degree mood swings, and being laughed at a he walked out of his boss’s office.

Yes, Dan, if this is persistent behaviour by someone who is perceived as being in a more powerful position (through their rank or some psychological advantage), then it sounds like you’re experiencing bullying workplace behaviours, plus some extremely childish behaviour.

In his email, Dan asked why these behaviours were happening at all?
Research has found that individuals who exceed accepted organisational performance norms are punished by their peers or colleagues, usually through “subtle or covert aggression, such as sabotage, ostracism, or “back-stabbing.”

Why is Dan a target? 

You are likely to be a conscientious worker or don’t quite fit the work culture, who perceived by the bully as a threat in some way. If you want to learn more about why some people may accidentally attract or trigger bullying and mobbing workplace behaviours, read my article ‘6 tactics to stay sane despite working in toxic workplaces’.

Online and offline workplace bullying.

Online and offline workplace bullying includes indirect aggression, such as face-to-face or cyber-related gossiping, social isolation and abuse. This sort of workplace aggression extends across task and person-related bullying, social isolation, verbal threats, and threats physical intimidation. I’ve written a very handy article entitled, ‘5 steps to take back your personal control during workplace confrontations’ that talks about these stages as a violence continuum that begins as discourtesy and disrespect and transmogrifies into serious forms of verbal and physical intimidation.

Once the behaviour transforms into open verbal confrontations or abuse, the target often finds themselves isolated and rejected by their team. Generally speaking, the bullying is resolved when the target (or victim) leaves the workplace or team, often at their disadvantage. The perpetrator tends to be left with the team to bully the next target.

Why is workplace bullying allowed to happen, especially when we know it’s so expensive to workplace productivity?

According to Lutgen-Sandvik (2011), workplace bullying ‘is condoned through societal discourses, sustained by receptive workplace cultures, and perpetuated through local interactions.’

 Lutgen-Sandvik (2011) found  persistent perpetrators are highly practised in the art of gradually and quietly introducing the bullying so gradually onto a target’s awareness that it may take weeks or even months before the target realises the degree of applied manipulation.

Australian research found that online (and offline) workplace bullying in Commonwealth, State, Territory and local government organisations equally affects men and women irrespective of their hierarchical status or position, and arises from both internal and external sources.

25 tactics used by bullies 

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, the top 25 behaviours or tactics used by workplace bullies are:

1.   falsely accused someone of “errors” not actually made (used 71% of the time)

2. stared, glared, was nonverbally intimidating and was clearly showing hostility (68%)

3. discounted the person’s thoughts or feelings (“oh, that’s silly”) in meetings (64%)

4. used the “silent treatment” to “ice out” & separate from others (64%)

5. exhibited presumably uncontrollable mood swings in front of the group (61%)

6. made up own rules on the fly that even she/he did not follow (61%)

7. disregarded satisfactory or exemplary quality of completed work despite evidence (58%)

8. harshly and constantly criticized having a different ‘standard’ for the Target (57%)

9. started, or failed to stop, destructive rumours or gossip about the person (56%)

10. encouraged people to turn against the person being tormented (55%)

11. singled out and isolated one person from co-workers, either socially or physically (54%) 12. publicly displayed “gross,” undignified, but not illegal, behavior (53%)

13. yelled, screamed, threw tantrums in front of others to humiliate a person (53%)

14. stole credit for work done by others (47%)

15. abused the evaluation process by lying about the person’s performance (46%)

16. “insubordinate” for failing to follow arbitrary commands (46%)

17. used confidential information about a person to humiliate privately or publicly (45%)

18. retaliated against the person after a complaint was filed (45%)

19. made verbal put-downs/insults based on gender, race, accent or language, disability (44%)

20. assigned undesirable work as punishment (44%)

21. made undoable demands– workload, deadlines, duties — for person singled out (44%)

22. launched a baseless campaign to oust the person and not stopped by the employer (43%)

23. encouraged the person to quit or transfer rather than to face more mistreatment (43%)

24. sabotaged the person’s contribution to a team goal and reward (41%)

25. ensured failure of person’s project by not performing required tasks: signoffs, taking calls, working with collaborators (40%)

For easy and effective tactics to successfully deal with, and stop workplace bullying, read my articles ‘5 steps to take back your personal control during workplace confrontations’ and ‘6 risk management strategies to interrupt negative workplace behaviours.’

Next week I’ll be writing about the strategies currently used to stop workplace bullying, and their efficacy.

Dr Flis has a BA SSc and a PhD in organisational social psychology and works with individuals and organisations as a consultant, speaker and trainer. She uses her social science expertise to enhance interactions between organisations and the people who lead and work in them by fostering new insights for diagnosing organisational problems, and build new capabilities and culture.

Contact Dr Flis at, LinkedIn  or follow Flis on her blog Twitter or Facebook

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