- PART 2
Profile of the Bullies and
Profile of the Bully
Profile of the Victim
In this second article on the
subject of Workplace Bullying, Jacinta Kitt provides
an in-depth profile of those who bully and those who
become the victims.
Profile of the Bully
is considerable consensus that workplace bullies are
selfish, self-obsessed, inadequate, insecure and totally
Bullying bosses are extremely autocratic,
exhibiting an unrelenting need to be fully in control.
They dictate how and what decisions are made, allowing
no real debate. Lip service is paid to consultation.
Employees expressing concerns about inappropriate,
unethical or bullying behaviours are frequently described
as having a negative attitude, being paranoid, or
engaging in whistleblowing. Bullying bosses exaggerate
their own contribution and are reluctant to acknowledge
the contributions of others. They adopt a
territorial approach to running their workplaces and
often use loud voiced aggressive tactics to dominate
decision making and day-to-day operations.
The notion that anyone else might have an alternative
point of view is not considered. Compromise is not
countenanced. Workplace bullies display gross inadequacies
in their ability to communicate in an open and healthy
manner. They frequently lack vision or initiative
and they are often threatened by competence.
A bully’s aggression occasionally
involves screaming and shouting but more often manifests
itself in criticism, insulting comments, whispers
and other insidious behaviour. The effect of this
behaviour is humiliation and intimidation. This more
sinister form of aggression can often be found in
gestures, tones, facial expressions and other non-verbal
messages. However, the victims are left in no doubt
about their demeaning content. The coercion is achieved
by instilling terror and fear.
use their power to disempower others.
They frequently intimidate those who have the skills
to do the job better than them.
The obsessive and narcissistic
behaviour of workplace bullies is evidence of their
selfishness. An important feature of the bully is
their compulsion to have their own needs met at all
costs. This compulsion is also highlighted in the
bully’s constant demands for respect and consideration
whilst persistently denying similar treatment to others.
Bullying bosses, by their self-centered, selfish behaviour
effectively treat their subordinates as non-persons.
A bully’s inappropriate behaviour results
from his or her own inadequacies and insecurities.
Their actions are dysfunctional means of dealing with
their own problems of low self-esteem. The
bullying reproduces similar problems in the victims,
creating a cycle of abuse. Bullying Managers or bosses
frighten and belittle their victims in a vain attempt
to conceal their own fears and to make themselves
look big. They diminish the confidence and integrity
of others in order to deflect attention from their
own inadequacies. They use their power to disempower
others. They frequently intimidate those who have
the skills to do the job better than them.
The insensitivity of the bully’s
behaviour is particularly sad, and extremely difficult
to comprehend. They are perceived as being cold and
heartless. They show no consideration for the feelings
of those they hurt and humiliate. Irrespective of
the type of behaviour engaged in by the workplace
bully, the view common to all studies on the subject
is that the bully inflicts intolerable pain and suffering.
They have the power to destroy the work and
home lives of those they target. Unfortunately, despite
their absolutist, righteous and unethical behaviour,
they are inclined to filter upwards by being promoted.
Bullies should be made aware of the consequences of
their behaviour. However, they can be evasive and
manipulative, dishonest and convincing. A climate
of unacceptability must be created in relation to
bullying and all employees must be made aware that
it is neither condoned nor tolerated.
Profile of the Victim
common misconception is that victims of bullying are
invariably weak, timid, submissive and often possessing
negative attitudes about themselves. This profile,
particularly of adult victims of workplace bullying,
is very much at variance with the majority view of
those writing on the subject. Research which
has been undertaken on adult bullying, has consistently
failed to link bullying to the victim’s personality.
The image of the victim as insipid and inadequate
belies the reality of the many positive attributes
typically possessed by the bullied victim. Integrity,
empathy, and confidence are frequently cited among
these attributes. People who are good at their
jobs, are popular with colleagues, speak out against
unethical behaviour and are intolerant of hypocrisy
are often targets of bullying. Those with
the integrity to withstand the efforts of the bully
to create a group of "yes men or women"
risk being victimised. It is often the person who
tries to change the system, who introduces new systems
with enthusiasm and is potentially an organisation’s
best asset, who becomes the victim of bullying.
The notion that personality characteristics
are causes of bullying, is widely disputed. Personality
changes as a result of bullying however, is not disputed.
Confident and strong people once bullied often become
weak and insecure. Bullying makes victims doubt themselves,
sometimes even doubt their sanity. It can make competent
people feel stupid and inadequate. A bullied victim’s
position and influence in the workplace are very much
weakened. Their viewpoint on the problem may not be
accepted by their colleagues or management. This experience
can be devastating to their confidence and self-esteem.
People who have previously been reasonable and balanced
in their relations with others may, as a result of
bullying, display irrational and erratic behaviour
consistent with mental injury.
Victims of bullying may
also express uncharacteristic anger, and frustration,
aggravated by the incredulity of what is happening
to them and also by the blatant injustice of the behaviour
perpetrated against them. This anger needs
to be managed and accompanied by a well thought out
strategy. If, instead, it provokes an understandable
outburst, it then presents an opportunity for the
bully to suggest that the victim is "mad"
and a troublemaker. It may be easier at that point
to get rid of the "offender".
Some consolation is available for
victims through the consensus that they are never
responsible for the bullying. The abused person is
never to blame for the abuse committed by another
individual who has chosen to act in an abusive manner.
Victims may derive further comfort from the fact that
frequently predecessors have suffered at the hands
of their tormentor, as will successors.
victims of bullying tend to be optimistic and forgiving,
it is difficult for them to accept that another human
could knowingly cause such cruelty.
victim’s ordeal may be intensified by his/her
own, and others’ inability to recognise the
problem for what it is. The personal survival of victims
depends on their recognising what is happening to
them while the bullying is still at an early stage.
As victims of bullying tend to be optimistic and forgiving,
it is difficult for them to accept that another human
being could knowingly cause such cruelty. They
suffer grave injustices, often for years, without
identifying them as bullying. It is only
when they become aware of the nature of their problem
that the chances of adequate diagnosis and treatment
increase. In the meantime, victims suffer, and their
isolation and helplessness increases. Fear is their
constant companion. Fear of their complaint being
dismissed tends to silence them. Fear of being regarded
as a whistle-blower or a troublemaker prevents them
from complaining. Finally, fear instilled in victims
as a result of being hounded, hurt and humiliated,
compels them to be extremely cautious, making themselves
as inconspicuous as possible in an attempt to avoid
further abuse. They are intimidated into using as
little initiative and innovation as possible.
A sense that they are disbelieved,
or regarded as being paranoid creates despair in victims.
However, reports of bullying by bosses are frequently
corroborated by others who were similarly bullied.
Also, other victims of the abuse of a particular supervisor
exhibit similar symptoms of depression and anxiety.
These findings point to the conclusion that it is
the bosses’ behaviour and not the "oversensitive
ramblings" of the victims that is responsible
for the bullying of employees. Victims feel thoroughly
vulnerable because of the lack of avenues of recourse.
Sexual harassment and discrimination are recognised
as serious problems and a set of procedures is in
place to deal with their consequences. However, bullying
is still generally unrecognised, and ignored. This
fact limits the opportunities of the victims to fight
employee has the right to be treated with
respect and dignity by colleagues and management.
victims, as previously stated, cannot put a name on
what is happening to them. This, allied to the lack
of overt support available to them, diminishes their
means of defending themselves. Victims are not inherently
defenceless or weak. Yes, victims are generally non-aggressive,
Yes, they are sensitive and feel the pain of the cruelty
perpetrated on them. Yes, victims, like most functional
people, like to feel accepted and valued. And yes,
they may be more vulnerable because of their inability
to escape the bullying environment. However, any weakness
in defending themselves is very much linked with the
lack of support available.
An interesting aspect of workplace
bullying is that those being bullied have rarely,
if ever, previously experienced bullying. The particular
bullying situation confers the victim status on those
who suffer abuse. It is a transient and not a permanent
state. Bullying has an almost immeasurable
effect on victims. It greatly reduces their ability
to work effectively and to participate in their workplace.
Bullying needs certain conditions
to thrive. These include lack of understanding of
the problem, inadequate measures to deal with it and
a tolerance of disrespectful, inappropriate behaviour
in the workplace. Every employee has the right to
be treated with respect and dignity by colleagues
and management. When this fact is fully recognised
and acted on, bullying will be exposed and marginalised
and will become totally unacceptable. Some progress
has been made, however there is still some considerable
distance to travel!
The third of these articles
will deal with the effects of bullying on individuals
and on the organisation generally. Strategies
for dealing with bullying together with prevention
and resolution measures will be outlined.
1 2 3
has been added in this series of articles for emphasis.)