A workplace bully is never a good thing – in fact, unless stopped, bullies in the workplace can be responsible for a huge range of negative outcomes, such as low productivity, high absenteeism, frequent leavers and even lawsuits.
But how do you know if your workforce is being impacted by a bully? Do you know how to spot a workplace bully?
To help you with your assessment, here are some of the most common workplace bully personalities – as identified by Anton Hout, founder of OvercomeBullying.Org.
The Screaming MiMi
Let’s start with the easiest type of bully to recognise – The Screaming MiMi. According to Anton, this type of bully is very loud, contradictory and often abusive. They will rarely think twice about publicly insulting or humiliating another person, and the more reaction they get, the worse their behaviour will often become.
Remember that this type of bully is probably very aware that others dislike them, and will actually be encouraged by the fact that others are scared of them.
The Two-Headed Snake
Much sneakier than the first type of bully, this is the kind of person who will in secret talk ill of a co-worker, discredit their reputation, and even try to quietly take credit for their work. But to a co-worker’s face, this kind of bully will often act like a close friend and supportive colleague – so look out for somebody who is acting one way when around a person, but the opposite way when out of earshot.
The Constant Critic
A person’s work is never good enough according to The Constant Critic – their goal is to undermine the confidence of others by criticising almost everything they do. Sure, some amount of constructive criticism can be a good thing; but to The Constant Critic, everything can be improved – and they will not hesitate to point this out. But it doesn’t stop with just pointing out every minor imperfection – if there’s nothing to criticise, The Constant Critic is not adverse to the idea of making things up with the sole purpose of making another person look bad.
According to Anton, The Gatekeeper really loves having power over resources that other people need. Whether it’s as simple as refusing to lend somebody a pen, or as serious as purposefully preventing somebody’s access to work-critical systems, The Gatekeeper will always be on the lookout for ways to deny people the tools they need. Remember too that the kind of resources The Gatekeeper will try to control aren’t always physical – they can include ‘soft’ resources like time and information.
The Attention Seeker
Instead of wanting to feel powerful or dominant, this person wants one simple thing: Attention. And they’ll likely go to great lengths to get it. This includes ‘brown-nosing’ their superiors in a bid for preferential treatment; or excessive flattery towards their colleagues and peers… and until such time as they are denied the attention they crave, they might appear to be model employees. Be careful though: If they don’t get the attention they need, they can easily turn nasty.
Anton describes this type of workplace bully as the most petty and spiteful of them all – they think that they are the best thing since sliced bread, and want to be recognised for that. But here’s the thing: they aren’t usually very good at their job! Look out for somebody who exhibits behaviour similar to The Constant Critic, but who does so in a less relentless but more intense manner. Also look for somebody who always wants to be right about everything, and who seems to be automatically against anybody else’s ways of doing something – even if it’s clear that it’s a better way of doing it.
The problem with this type of bully is that as far as their actual work quality and performance goes, they’re the ideal employee – highly-skilled in a specific area of work, and generally a genuinely valuable contribution to the company’s operations. However, Anton explains that The Guru is a bully who’s skills are counterbalanced by their lack of emotional maturity – they will likely be very aware of their much-needed skillset, and as such, will feel as if they are ‘above’ the regular rules that apply to their co-workers, and will be unlikely to take responsibility for their actions when things go wrong.
Possibly the most damaging type of bully of them all, The Sociopath is described by Anton as being intelligent, charming, persuasive and even charismatic. But what’s wrong with this? Well, nothing – but this isn’t all there is to a workplace Sociopath, and Anton goes on to clarify that this type of bully will actually have no empathy for others, and will be very well-practiced in toying with the emotions of their co-workers and manipulating them for their own personal gain.
Share Your Experiences
Have you had experiences with any of these types of workplace bully? If so, how did you handle it and what advice do you have for our readers? Tell us your stories in the comments box below.