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10 Bullying Styles That Exist at Work

Posted by Chris Fields


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The word “bullying” usually summons thoughts of school-age kids behaving badly. But bullying does not stop with children. Unfortunately, while people get bigger, some never truly grow up, and they bring their childish antics with them when they enter the workplace.

As a human resources professional, I can tell you that bullying occurs in the workplace every day. An article published on Forbes.com states that as many as 96% of all Americans experience workplace bullying, and another article on ABC News states that 1 in 4 workers experience workplace bullying. Whether one or the other of those reports is completely accurate or the answer is somewhere in between, either way, that’s too many people being bullied.

It’s always surprising to learn that bullying occurs in your workplace. Of course, you must investigate the matter, but that can be trickier than it seems because are so many kinds of behavior that qualify as bullying. In order to help identify bullies, here’s a snapshot of 10 bullying styles that can be found in the workplace.

‘>Cliques/Crews – Most companies have departments that hang out together just for the camaraderie, but these crews can develop into cliques that can make others feel like outsiders. It’s possible that, due to their sheer numbers, these cliques can control their immediate work environments. Watch out for cliques and crews who tend to bully new employees, which often results in new hires quitting, or worse.

‘>Intimidators – Intimidators are aggressive. They make no secret that their goal is to render work a living hell for their victims. Using direct or indirect threats, social media, email, and pictures to harass their victims, they can be merciless. There’s a possibility they might even use physical force, but generally intimidators will bully from afar.

‘>Threats – Sometimes a bully in the workplace wants to scare or even terrorize another employee, just through using their words. For instance, a bully might tell a co-worker, “I’m going to punch you in the face.” They might also use vague threats like, “Something is going to happen to you, just you wait.” This behavior has to be dealt with immediately and resolved, for the safety of everyone involved.

‘>Nepotism/Favoritism  – Over half of jobs are filled through relationships or friendships and usually that’s not a problem. But every once in a while, an employee is eager to tell anyone who will listen that they’re protected and they can do whatever they want. The “relation” might try to leverage their connection as power over other employees, and make them feel like there’s no one who’ll look out for them. This form of bullying often leads to more intimidation and harassment, which is frequently sexual in nature.

‘>Megalomaniacs – These people have gigantic egos. And with huge egos come big problems. They tend to think that they can do whatever they want, and get away with anything. Megalomaniacs don’t consider consequences because they’re sure that they’re smarter than everyone else. These narcissistic power-seekers have to be brought back to reality, or they will apply any number of bullying tactics to get their way.

‘>Pranksters/Jokers – There’s a difference between a harmless (victimless) prank and relentless hurtful bullying. For instance, using Super Glue to cement a co-worker’s gloves shut can be harmless and funny, but a prank goes too far when it harms someone, embarrasses them, or causes physical damage. At that point, it’s no longer pranking, it’s bullying.

‘>Repeat Offenders – According to various reports, there are more than 68 million Americans with criminal records, so it’s quite likely that some of them work for you. When investigating instances of bullying, look at a person’s work history and criminal history – unfortunately, some people can’t be rehabilitated.

‘>Cyber Bullies – Social media has changed the game for everyone, including HR professionals. Employees can and do post comments, pictures, threats, hateful and insensitive jokes and more about other employees. HR needs to maintain an awareness that threats, menacing, defamation of character, rumors, and lies can all be transmitted online, through email, or via text messages.

‘>Menacing – People who menace others are often very careful about what they do and how they do it. When bullies harass their targets by staring them down or glaring at them, by walking past their work stations slowly, or by making people feel uncomfortable without physical contact, they’re deliberately keeping their distance. It’s very hard to amass evidence against people who practice menacing, but of course, their actions can be just as damaging as any other form of bullying.

‘>Sabotage – Some employees will go to any lengths to get someone they don’t like labeled or terminated – they might even intentionally tank a project to achieve their nefarious goal. Saboteurs who orchestrate their deceitful plans by forcing other employees to join in are practicing one of the worst kinds of bullying.

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About Chris Fields


Chris Fields is an HR professional and expert resume writer with more than 13 years of experience as a former practitioner and current HR consultant. He is the curator of two websites: CostofWork.com and ResumeCrusade.com, and contributes HR-focused content to many others, including PerformanceICreate.com, eSkill.com and SmartRecruiters.com.

4 COMMENTS Join the discussion
  • Marry Thompson September, 21, 2015

    I think, in a lot of companies, bullying happens right under the nose of those who should care enough to stop it, but they either cannot believe it could happen, or they fear the consequences of doing something about it. The “styles” you mentioned in this article reflect that the bullying is coming from someone in a higher position than the victims, and it is saddening to see it coming from those who should inspire and lead other employees to success.

  • Sheilla P. September, 23, 2015

    I admit it surprises me that such situations can happen in a work environment. But reading the article makes me realize that some situations I have considered to be simple teasing or challenges are more like bullying. And I looked more carefully at those involved and I want to do something about it, but what? It would be a great help if you could follow this with advice on how to deal with bullying in a work environment and what the right actions are, or to whom we should address these issues.

  • Yvonne Scott September, 24, 2015

    How should we prevent or stop bullying in an office? We may be talking about adults, but in a bad environment, the same instinct prevails: survival. People either adopt bullying tactics themselves and thus survive by not becoming a target, or they stand up against bullying and refuse to join in, in which case they are at risk of being bullied, harassed, victimized and scapegoated until they have to resign or they are fired. We have laws against bullying in schools now – can we implement anti-bullying policies in a company?

  • Anna July, 20, 2017

    I have experienced this. The hardest part is proving it. Can someone legally record these actions?


Guest July, 20, 2017