Are YOU a Workplace Bully?

Catherine Mattice

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cruel-boss.jpgOver the last few months we have been discussing the prevalence of bullies in the workplace. We’ve talked about identifying bullying behavior and what to do if you are a witness or the target. If you have been reading our articles and thinking you’ve never experienced anything like this… or you think the whole issue is ridiculous… you might need to take a serious look at yourself to see if just maybe- you could be the bully.  

Let’s start with the assessment below to find out if others might think you exhibit bullying behaviors. Circle the number in the column that best suits your answer to each statement, then add up your score.

 Workplace Bullying Assessment

Definitely does not describe me

Describes me a little bit, or sometimes

Yes, this definitely describes me

1.  I have a low tolerance for mistakes and poor performance

1

2

3

2.  At times I find myself talking down to other people

1

2

3

3. I don’t pay too much attention to how my behaviors affect other people’s feelings

1

2

3

4. I think conflict is about winning

1

2

3

5. If a co-worker is not performing according to my standards, I feel it’s my duty to let them know, even if it hurts their feelings

1

2

3

6. I have been in intense conflict with subordinates or peers

1

2

3

7.  I tend to micromanage my subordinates or co-workers

1

2

3

8. I rarely praise fellow employees for a  “job well done”

1

2

3

9. I’m guilty of spreading gossip

1

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3

10. When I argue, I usually end up yelling

1

2

3

11. When I get stressed out I’m not very pleasant to be around

1

2

3

12.  I’ve held, or currently hold, a grudge or two against others

1

2

3

13.  I have been told my communication skills are too aggressive

1

2

3

14.  I have received low scores on employee evaluations for lacking effective communication skills

1

2

3

15.  I get angry when things don’t go the way I expect them to

1

2

3

If you circled mostly 1’s, then congratulations, you are an amazing co-worker! It seems you understand the importance of teamwork, you know that relationships are important, and you are a great communicator. Co-workers likely respect you a lot, and enjoy working with you.

If you’re like most people, you circled some 2’s, which means you’re not perfect and sometimes your emotions get the best of you. If you circled a lot of 2’s, then you may be considered aggressive by others, and you’ll want to keep in mind that effective communication and healthy relationships are the key to your own personal success.

If you circled any 3’s, your behavior may be disrupting the workplace and causing some hurt and anguish. Re-think how you communicate with people at work, and figure out how you can learn to become a more tolerant - and respectful - communicator.

Why might you exhibit bullying behaviors?

There are actually so many reasons people “act out” that I could write a whole book on it. Emotions, past experiences, perceptions, self-concept, communication skills and more all play a role in why we behave the way we do. That said, here are five of the most common reasons you might engage in bullying behavior sometimes:

  1. It makes you feel good to belittle others or yell. Fact is, when you are having a bad day you feel angry and aggressive, so lashing out at others releases some of that tension and provides short term relief. Unfortunately it can cause long term damage to the relationship. 
  1. You may not have the time to think about the feelings of others. Effective communicators are always aware of what they say and how they say it. They make a conscious effort to communicate with regard for other people’s feelings, and this takes a little time. We can all benefit from purposefully pausing, thinking through another person’s emotions, and then talking – the extra 5 seconds will save you a lot of time in rebuilding a relationship later. 
  1. You want to win your arguments. Disagreements are bound to happen; conflict is a normal part of life. The problem is that many of us focus on our own needs when in conflict, without considering the needs of the other person. 

Next time you find yourself in a conflict situation, keep these three steps in mind:

  • As leadership expert, Steven Covey, said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” In other words, listen to the other person’s side, and truly try to understand it.
  • Then voice your own needs.
  • Now you can work together to find an amicable solution that’s focused on both of your needs. 
  1. You get annoyed when people don’t meet your standards. Of course you do. It’s annoying when you feel like you have to babysit someone to get them to perform at a “normal” level. But consider that a low performer may not have gotten the right training, or is having a personal problem that’s distracting, or has never received the right tools to do the job, or that your aggressiveness is making it hard to perform well. 

Instead of assuming this person is just incompetent, consider what other factors may be a part of the problem, and work with this person to get better. A great leader is a coach, not an abuser. 

  1. You have trust issues. Do you feel the need to stay on top of your peers and subordinates to see what they’ve accomplished, or if their work is up to your standards? If you micro-manage, it means you don’t trust the people around you. Ask yourself why not. Has everyone you work with made a terrible mistake and can’t be trusted anymore? I doubt it. 

Micromanaging could also mean you are focused on your power – you’re a manager and everyone’s going to know it. If this is the case, there’s something wrong, and it’s not your employees’ performance. You’ve got to learn to relax and let people do their work.

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Workplace Violence

Catherine Mattice

Posted By: Catherine Mattice

Author Catherine Mattice is partnering with EBI as we launch an assault on workplace bullying. Catherine is the co-author of the book BACK OFF! Your Kick-A$$ Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, a comprehensive guide on dealing with bullying in the workplace. She is a founding member of the National Workplace Coalition and college professor in San Diego, California.

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