Types of Bullies in the Workplace
Updated: Jan 30
Most people think of bullying as occurring between children in school. While this type of bullying is the most common, it is possible for bullying to occur between adults in the workplace. Like in the schoolyard, there are many different reasons adults bully each other and many different types of bullies.
Sometimes an adult bully will act out because they are under stress. They may not even intend to target others at first, but because of stress in the workplace, they begin targeting others to take their stress out on. These adult bullies usually realize what they are doing and stop after the stress subsides, although they may continue targeting others.
Often, an adult bully will target a person in a position of authority. Sometimes employees will target their boss, or in some cases, these employees will be bullied by the people they are serving. This most commonly occurs in nursing and in schools. Patients and students will relentlessly target the people trying to help them for various reasons, and the professionals will have no idea how to handle it as there are strict rules of conduct they must follow.
A true adult bully will continually bully others, even to the point of having them fired. The bully will appear calm and confident and deny any charges made by the victim to a boss or human resources officer. Often, the victim will not have any proof that they are being bullied and will either resign or get fired if their work performance is affected. Then the adult bully will move on to another target and continue the cycle of bullying. This is the most common way adult bullying occurs, and is why it is hard to stop.
As support with kids, sometimes bullies will only act in conjunction with others. If someone realizes that another employee is bullying others, they may join the bully instead of standing up for the victim because it is easier. People who bully others will often act together as they act as support for each other. Bullies working together can include pairs or even groups.
Often employees who have formed a friendship or are involved together will work together to intimidate other employees for their gain. Often one adult bully will be very subtle, and the other will be more obvious, making the bullying more effective. Sometimes a larger group of employees will gang up and single out another employee to undermine his work or force him to quit. These groups of bullies will usually pick a person that is different from them or that they all dislike. They will act together to intimidate and target the employee for ridicule.
Even though many people don't realize that there is such a thing as an adult bully, many workplaces have them. Dealing with an adult bully can be challenging, and co-workers being bullied may have no choice other than to quit.