The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Business

March 7, 2014

Office bullying can be subtle

Sad to say, but bullying does not just exist in the schoolyard. It is alive and well in the workplace.

We probably all know what the obvious signs of bullying look like. Examples include: offensive communication (using profanity, gossip or derisive jokes); aggression (yelling or shouting at an employee); coercion (forcing someone to say or do things against their will); belittling or demeaning someone regarding their ideas or work; embarrassing, degrading or humiliating someone publicly in front of others; retaliation; threats; blocking the advancement or growth of someone, or actively campaigning to get rid of them.

In addition to these obvious forms of bullying, there are many subtle forms that may not easily be detected but still cause emotional damage. Perhaps a bully is in charge of taking photos at a key event. He/she may take pictures of everyone but their victim to let them know who is in control. Maybe the bully acts chummy with the victim's friends or share jokes and social events with everyone but the victim. These are forms of socially isolating the victim.

Bullies may constantly justify their behavior or make excuses for it ("I raised my voice because I am going through a bad time right now"). They may act oblivious or dumb ("Oh, I didn't know that was important to you"). They may constantly blame the victim or use him/her as a scapegoat. One tactic that I have heard used a lot is pitting employees against each other so that they will turn against each other. This way, the bully comes out as the winner.

As managers, bullies may set unrealistic expectations or set their employees up to fail. They may also display sudden mood swings, making them unpredictable. They may take credit for others' ideas without acknowledging them. They may lie or distort the truth about what others have said in order to advance their own agendas. For example, the person may say, "Josh said this is how we should run the meeting" since that is how the bully wants to run it, when in fact, Josh never said that at all.

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