We know workplace bullying can harm a target’s health, leading to such issues as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even suicide. But what about the bullies? Publishing their findings in the October 2016 Journal of Business Ethics in “Victim and Culprit? The Effects of Entitlement and Felt Accountability on Perceptions of Abusive Supervision and Perpetration of Workplace Bullying,” researchers focused on the problem — what makes a bully bully. They determined that bullies feel less accountability and more entitlement than those who don’t bully. “There’s an indirect relationship between entitlement and coworker bullying through perceptions of abusive supervision that is stronger for employees who report lower levels of felt accountability than employees who report higher levels of felt accountability,” said the researchers.
Take Your Dignity...
“Excellence isn’t usually what gets you up the greasy pole. What gets you up is a talent for maneuvering. Kissing up to the people above you, kicking down to the people below you,” says leadership speaker William Deresiewicz. Most of us who find ourselves bullied at work wonder how on earth the incompetent bullies get ahead while the competent and ethical targets stay at lower ranks with less pay and responsibility.
Here are two reasons why bullies get ahead at work:
So you have a reputation of being a go-to person at work. One who gets things done and gets them done well. One who wants your organization to be great.
But suddenly you look around, and it’s the selfish, incompetent ones clawing their way to the top while you’re stuck reporting to them, making less money than them, and getting bullied by them.
So what’s the deal? How did this illogical power structure become so common?
Ally worked at a hotel from 2014-2018. Read her workplace bullying story in her words:
I was the Director of Sales, overseeing revenue for the property and creating relationships with clients and new accounts. Everything was fine when I began the job and even when we had gotten a new general manager later in 2014. About a year later in 2015, I noticed some changes, not only by our general manager’s (my boss') attitude towards tasks, but how other employees started to see her actions. Bullying began by calling me names and picking on my weight (looking too skinny). After the name calling and picking on appearance, she began to focus on my personal life, making comments regarding my relationship with my sister and even about my home. As a general manager, you would have access to employees' addresses, but I would have never actually shown a photo of my home or where I live. As accounts were growing and we were booking more business, there was more of a workload,...
Harmful health effects from workplace bullying aren’t just self-reported. They’re proven.
In a 2003 study, Researchers Wager, Fieldman, and Hussey looked at the effects of workplace bullying on female healthcare workers’ blood pressure. Researchers separated the workers into an experimental group, who dealt with supervisors of two different interpersonal styles, and a control group, who worked under favorably perceived bosses only.
“Data revealed that working under a less favorably perceived boss resulted in significantly higher levels of systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure than for those subjects working under more favorably perceived bosses,” say Loraleigh Keashly and Joel H. Neuman in their Employee Rights and Employee Policy Journal article.”The results are intriguing and consistent with data from correlational, self-report studies.”
Take Your Dignity Back
If you feel like you’re...
We talk about consequences for workplace bullying targets and their organizations. But what happens in an organization when a bully provokes so much anxiety in targets that targets have crippling fear of approaching the bully?
In their Employee Rights and Employee Policy Journal article, Loraleigh Keashly and Joel H. Neuman point to the airline and health care industries to show how fear-based cultures created by toxic bosses can promote not just the deaths of efficiency, effective decision-making, communication, risk-taking, creativity, and innovation, but also people:
Airline industry. “In two separate incidents, in which aircraft personnel felt intimidated by their pilots and fearful of questioning his decisions, aircraft crewmembers failed to correct pilot errors that resulted in two separate air crashes, killing all on board,” they explained.
Health care industry. Nurses are often also reluctant to challenge poor decisions made by...
If you think workplace bullying is a bigger issue than managers often suspect, you’re right. Research supports that workplace bullying simply often goes unreported but it’s still happening. In their Employee Rights and Employee Policy Journal article, Researchers Loraleigh Keashly and Joel H. Neuman said a study of the VA healthcare system, the VA Project, showed a gap between those who experienced workplace bullying and those who reported it their experience to a supervisor. “Of the people identified as being exposed to bullying behavior (36 percent of the total sample), 53 reported their experience to a supervisor. An even smaller proportion (15 percent) filed a formal grievance.”
Possible reasons for not reporting bulling behavior at work:
A great leader creates a positive work culture with empathy, humility, teamwork, and the idea that empowering employees not only shows them respect but also encourages productivity. It’s building people versus power-tripping people, looking out for the organization and the team versus one’s ego.
When a manager isn’t a leader, the entitled power-tripping can play out in such ways as:
When the boss isn’t the power-tripper
When the power-tripper is a co-worker, often he or she will just take the power. I call this move the “power grab,” and I’ve witnessed it so many times both on the job and in my volunteer work. Someone on your level (or in the case of volunteer work, any level) simply starts acting like he or she can boss you around. It’s a gross move that sets up a hierarchy...
We may know how to recognize bullying at work. But to create a more compassionate culture, it’s not enough to identify what’s wrong. If you were thrust into a leadership position yourself, would you know how to create a positive culture for your employees?
If we look at management effectiveness on a continuum, we put effective management (using empathy, humility, teamwork, respect, and empowerment) on one end and ineffective management (abuse) on the other. At various points along the continuum, we’d have some positive tactics (consistent communication, celebrating wins, honoring employees’ expertise) and some negative tactics (micromanagement, pulling rank, ignoring issues, positioning above grunt work, denying employees opportunities without explanation).
The bottom line
Regardless of whether or not bosses lead well 100 percent of the time, we can watch their actions to understand their underlying management philosophies. The bottom line is...
Workplace bullying is painful no matter how to slice it. But for those with narcissistic mothers, workplace bullying can both trigger open childhood wounds and affirm feelings of unworthiness.
In her book Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers, author Karyl McBride, Ph.D., says that some high-achieving daughters aka “Mary Marvels” focus on achievement as a way to prove to the world (and to their mothers) that they’re worthy. Struggling with feelings of inadequacy and growing up having to be doers to feel accepted and approved by their mothers, these daughters often didn’t receive validation in early years and don’t learn to validate themselves. “She [a high-achieving daughter] often succumbs to the lure of doing more and trying harder in ways that bring validation from others. This is an unconscious seduction because Mary Marvels are almost highly skilled and competent…. The praise appears to fill...
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