By: Sandi Verrecchia @satoriinsight

Close your eyes and picture a situation that involves a bully. If you are like most, the typical scenario that you see is that of a large kid picking on a smaller kid in a schoolyard or that of Nelson Muntz, from the Simpsons, and his pack of goons, terrorizing the poor kids of Springfield Elementary. Schools have done a terrific job at providing education to help young people detect and deal with bullies, but what happens when the bully is not so easy to see? What happens when the bully is all grown up and is no longer loud and larger than life, but is quiet and a master manipulator? What happens when the bully is in your workplace?

Workplace bullying happens within many organizations and appears to be on the rise as a result of organizations shifting toward more team based activities, projects and decision making. Working in a team environment can be more difficult than being an individual contributor as teams are often less about individual intelligence and hierarchy and more about cohesive decision making and delivery. This new environment is causing smart, self-confident people to feel threatened by their own insecurities. Workplace bullies typically target individuals who appear to have skills and abilities that the bully lacks or that the bully perceives as being a personal weakness. The insecurity of the bully sees these abilities and skills within the target as threatening to their power, and thus tend to pursue the target in an effort of make themselves appear superior and the targeted individual appear less valuable or weak. The political or chameleon like tendencies of a workplace bully often makes it very difficult for the targeted individual to raise issues with leaders. Few leaders have had the training and coaching required for spotting a workplace bully, let alone dealing with them. As a result, the subtleties of the bullies will fly under the radar and leaders will often mistake the target as the troublemaker, or simply characterize the target as not being a team player or just plain whiny. In addition, without internal structure and transparency, the rest of the team members are often afraid to come forward for fear of repercussion from the bully or for fear of the attitude of the organization. According to the Bully at Work 2nd Edition, by Gary Namie PHD and Ruth Namie PHD, 40% of targets quit their job and 24% get fired, whereas less than 24% of bullies are recognized let alone punished for their behaviour. The bully is often revered as being politically savvy which organizational leaders will frequently tout as being a positive leadership quality. This characterization along with the lack of workplace training will often create an opportunity for workplace bullies to leave many casualties in their wake before leaders within an organization see through their veil of manipulation. Much like schools, organizations need to develop a zero tolerance policy regarding work place bullying. The following 5 steps should act as guiding principles for organizations to follow to mitigate the prevalence of workplace bullying.

Top 5 tips for Organizations:

  1. Develop and articulate a zero tolerance policy
  2. Provide a safe environment to foster open discussion about the issue of workplace bullying
  3. Provide leaders and employees with training on how to spot a workplace bully
  4. Provide leaders with training on conflict management and provide resources, such as outside facilitators and coaches, to aid in dealing with workplace bullies
  5. Be transparent, listen to your employees and do the right thing, not the easy thing


Sandi VerrecchiaSandi Verrecchia

Sandi Verrecchia is a Certified Management Consultant, holds a Masters degree and is a professional Leadership Coach. With over 20 years of experience in the financial services, academic and not for profit sectors, her diverse background of consulting, operations, marketing and sales is a wonderful compliment to her passion for coaching.