October 23rd, 2012

Wanna Be a Workplace Bully for Halloween? Costume advice here.

Halloween has become the new major holiday. Partying adults account for much of the spending after the candy and kiddie costumes. So, maybe you want to be a bully at work in costume this year. What would that look like?

No worries. Come as you are. Bullies are rarely different than most of us. They don’t dress differently. This will save you lots of dough. No special costume required. And only under special circumstances do they think differently. Here’s what I mean.

Bully Bosses – 72% of bullies

Except for the rare psychopath (1 in 100 executives according to Robert Hare), most bullies are responding to situational pressures. Genuine psychopaths DO think differently than the rest of us. They are disturbed.

They could be following direct, explicit orders from a senior manager (“clean up the unit”) as a good soldier would do. Asking people to show integrity and push back against the power gradient, and it’s an uphill push, is asking for too much for most people. Lots of bullies are sheep, just doing what they are told without the backbone to stop abusing others.

They could be anticipating what their senior manager boss wants done. They could be emulating the crappy managerial style of their boss who models antiquated command and control tactics. In other words, they act on inferences, guesses, they make about what they think their boss wants. These sycophants want to be the big boss. They are Machiavellian careerists willing to harm anyone who gets in their way.

They could be acting in ways they assume define the role of “being boss.” Bossness brings out the worst stereotypical controlling behavior in us all. Outside work, they would never act in such an antisocial in town, at their children’s school or in church. Their conduct at work is governed by an adherence to the unwritten script for the role of boss. They act as they believe they should be act. There’s not a lot of deliberate thought by this type of bully. They operate on autopilot, relying on automatic behaviors. If they stopped to think, they would realize the harmful consequences of their actions on others. It’s more important to them to be “right.”

Bully Coworkers – 18% of bullies

They could be part of a coworker mob, led by an instigator who really hates the target, acting in ways that the person is unlikely to act when alone with the target. The group provides the anonymity that replaces moral reasoning.

They could be part of an existing clique of veteran workers, bonded by years of shared service or common motives. The clique defends their culture (“way of doing things here”) and their status (“the elites”) against perceived threats from newcomers to the workplace. They harass, meddle, bully to test newbies to see if their misconduct is countered or reported. The clique’s solidarity allows them to manufacture reality for selected targets that threaten the target’s self-identity as well as her or his reputation with managers.

The Up-the-Chart Bully – 10% of bullies

This person is the lowest on the org chart. By rank, she or he should have no clout. Don’t believe it. Sitting in a subordinate role means nothing to the narcissistic bully. They have as much power as anyone else and will prove it to disbelievers. Regardless of “official” status, she or he runs the organization and knows it. Control over others with much higher rank is achieved simply by interfering with the flow of important information (or funding) that crosses the bully’s desk. By selecting who gets the information (funds) and who is deprived, the bully makes her- or himself indispensable.


If there is a Halloween party at work this year, you won’t be able to spot the bullies unless you’ve been on the receiving end of their destructive shenanigans. Costumes are deceiving.


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 at 12:09 pm and is filed under Tutorials About Bullying, WBI Education. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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