Understand how bullies think, act to protect your employees and your company.
Bullying costs businesses more than $200 billion annually from lowered productivity, higher rates of absenteeism, and high turnover. It is important for HR professionals to understand signs of a bullying personality so that they can intervene as early and appropriately as possible. In addition to protecting your employees and keeping them safe and engaged, defusing bullying can help prevent increased workers’ comp claims, damage to the company’s reputation, potential fines for violating occupational health and safety laws, and legal costs.
Watch for these most common bully personalities:
1. The Screaming Mimi. This type of bully is most obvious. Loud and obnoxious, these individuals live to berate and humiliate people. They get satisfaction from instilling fear in others.
2. The Two-Headed Snake. The type of bully is more insidious. They pretend to be a trusted friend or loyal colleague, but they are backstabbers who trash their target to others, take credit for the person’s work, and/or spread damaging rumors or gossip.
3. The Constant Critic. These bullies chip away at people’s confidence via constant, often unjustified, criticism. They nitpick, naysay, mock, and dismiss others’ work, successes, and activities. Don’t be surprised if these bullies make up or falsify things to make others look bad.
4. The Gatekeeper. These bullies get pleasure and feelings of power by denying other employees the tools they need to do their jobs well. This may mean refusing requests for supplies or equipment, denying access to training, setting impossible deadlines, etc.
5. The Attention Seeker. This type of bully may seem cooperative, nice even. But deny them the attention they crave, and they will quickly go from Hyde to Jekyll. These bullies will get attention whatever way they can, including by playing victim and seeking sympathy.
6. The Wannabee. Although these bullies often aren’t good at their jobs, they see themselves as indispensable and want recognition for everything. The demand that things be done their way–right or wrong. While they demand recognition for their efforts, don’t expect them to ever praise or compliment others.
7. The Guru. Unlike many other bullies, these individuals usually are very capable—even considered to be experts in their field. However, they are emotionally immature and see themselves as superior to others. They don’t accept responsibility for their actions, and they don’t really care if they make others feel bad.
8. The Sociopath. These are possibly the most dangerous bullies of all. Charming, bright, and engaging, these bullies have zero empathy and don’t feel a whit of guilt for hurting others. They often rise to positions of power, which can make them even more difficult to manage.
Educate your teams about these bully types, as well as signs that a colleague is being bullied. At the same time, ensure you have company anti-bullying policies that include a detailed definition of bullying and bullying behaviors, information about how workers can report bullying (even when the perpetrator is a manager), how you will follow up on and investigate any complaints, a strong “no retaliation” policy to protect reporters, and the consequences of violating anti-bullying rules.