Work place bullying


N.R. Aravamudhan
Senior Faculty
Department of Management Studies
Suverna International Institute of Management Studies

When was the last time you got bullied? may be in the school. The quintessential schoolyard bully, picking on his/her target, subjecting them to the most harshest and worst treatment. Egged on by the cheering classmates, bully may derive a sardonic pleasure, kicking the target black and blue. It takes a quite a while for the target to snap out of the traumatic experience, leaving them psychologically and emotionally scarred The bullies do not abound in just schools. one may come across such bullies in the work place too. work place bullying represents the soft underbelly of the corporate landscape. Like sexual harassment and workplace violence, bullying is a stark reality an it exist. Any attempt by the organizations to sweep the problem under the carpet and pretend that it does not exist is morally untenable. world over, the work place bullying has assumed a diabolic proportions, threatening to disturb the tranquility of the organization.

A survey conducted by national institute of occupational safety and health revealed a startling factoids. Bullying takes place at least one in four work place in united kingdom, where as the incidence of workplace bullying happens one in six in united states. A study conducted by national health workers painted a bleak picture, what with 38% of the workers surveyed claiming to be the target of bullying in the past year. A study conducted by TVC suggested that over 2 million people had been bullied at the workplace in past 6 months.

What is bullying ?

Bullying at work is defined as repeated, health- endangering mistreatment of a person by a perpetrator, driven by his/her urge to control the target. Every work place has its own share of conflicts and problems. They are germane to corporate life. But bullying at work place is unacceptable and should not be allowed to take firm roots. Bullying may take many hues and spring from many sources. The worst part of it is that the victim, many a time does not realize that he/ she is being bullied. If an individual find himself /herself asking a fundamental question like "should I take a rude, arrogant, and callous behavior from a rank stranger" and the resultant answer is a "big no", he / she may be at the receiving end.

Bullying may usually come from managers, peers, colleagues, or worse even staff. But in many instances, it is the manager who turns out to be a corporate Monster behaving like a hell's child in the work place. A recent study commissioned by Roffey park, the executive education and research organization threw up startling pointers. Asked to identify the perpetrators of bullying, 63% of the respondents pointed to the senior managers, while 20% of the respondents alleged the role of colleagues in bullying. In contrast, aggrieved customers were cited by only 18% of the respondents. It is a fallacy to believe that it is men who are generally perceived to be a corporate bully. The corporate lore has it that a women can do a fine job of bullying and can teach a lesson or two in bullying to her male counterparts. Psychologist Garie nomie, PRESIDENT OF WORK PLACE BULLY AND TRAUMA INSTITUTE conducted an on-line survey of 1000 people, believed to be the victim of bullying at work. The survey revealed that 58% of the bullies were identified to be women. Interestingly, their targets are also commonly believed to be women. Bullies can operate in more ways than one. They chose to target the victim in subtle ways. Suddenly the victim may find the responsibilities being snatched away, information being withheld and resources being blocked. Unrealistic target and deadlines may be fixed. Undue delay may be caused in sanctioning leave. Promotional and training opportunities may sought to be blocked. Victim may even be shunted to inconsequential post to cut him/her down to size. Spectacular performances by the victim go unsung and unacknowledged. But the minor infractions will be met with opprobrium. Each day becomes a dreadful and frightening affair. So while the victim skulks away in silence, the bully goes on the rampage, undermining the targets self-worth, self-confidence, self-respect and performance. In many instances, victims are too frightened and traumatized to come forward and recount their experiences. A study by mercer human resources consulting suggest that a less than 6 out of 10 employees would feel comfortable to report instances of bullying un the workplace.

The report also suggest that the marked reluctance to spill the workplace bullying beans is not confined to the employees at the lower echelon of the company. Only a less than two -third of middle ranking managers are quite comfortable reporting the incidence of workplace bullying.

The colleagues and co-workers can be of little use. The co-workers are aware of the goings-on, but do not come forward to help the victim, fearing the backlash from the bully.

Bullies can inflict a greater damage upon the organization in general and victims in particular. The onus is on the top management to stop the bully in his/her track. Seen against this background, it is imperative to de-mystify the persona of the corporate psychopath called "the bully".


The popular stereotype of the bully being "strong-willed, powerful, and in control" is passť'. On the contrary, bullies are quite coward and lily-livered. They have a overwhelming urge to be one upon others. they resort to bullying by controlling the target. Bullies suffer from poor self-worth, low self-esteem and lack of confidence.  Many a time bullies behave the way they do, because of their own deep-seated securities. Bullies are incapable and incompetent in their professional and personal lives ant they fear being discovered of their inadequacies. Bullies like to control others. Bullies are also pathetic liars, cheats, manipulative, malicious, jealous, bitter, frustrating, despotic, and lazy. the most marked trait of the bully is that of being charmingly urbane and suave, with an embedded deceitfulness. bullies thrive on cheap, base and gross tactics to control others. Bullies can make the target look vulnerable by isolating his/ her Achilles heel and magnify it. Bully can succeed in making the targets smaller mistakes look 20 times worse than they actually are. In contrast, the target may be a talented, able, competent person and well-liked by the co-worker. Invariably, bullies pick on such persons, who they perceive to be a potential threat. Bullies operate with main objective of driving the victim out of organization. in many instances, they do succeed in their attempt. After realizing their hidden agenda, they move on to the next target.


Bullying can have a debilitating effects on the well-being of the organization. A Recent study shows that bullies waste between 10% and 52% of their time at work place. Much of their time is gobbled up in defending their action and mobilizing support among other members of the organization. Consequently, it is the organization which has to pay the big price. Employer has to groan under the burden of absenteeism, labor turnover, sagging morale, strained working relationships, less efficiency and productivity, separation package and defending costly law suits. A study conducted by IRS EMPLOYMENT REVIEW Revealed the negative effects of bullying reported by respondents included problems with staff absence (26%) and turnover(24%).But the most worst impact had been on workplace relationships(39%) and morale ((28%). but the bullying usually hits the employer where it hurts the most_ The Bottom-line.


The victim may experience an indescribable bouts of depression, stress, panic, anxiety, sleeplessness, loss of appetite and a complete withdrawal. Besides impeding the ability to make an informed decisions, bullying saps the energy level of the victim, leading to flagging productivity, less efficiency an mounting frustration. There is a overwhelming sense of helplessness and a felling of emasculation. This impaired emotional structure may extract a strong price from the victim by way of upsetting his equations with family and friends. Marriage may suffer due to the anxiety and the depressive behavior of the victim. The charm in the friendship may lose its sheen as the victim may suffer from heavy bouts of social withdrawal. But such victims can resurrect themselves from the emotional abyss they have slipped into, by taking medical care. Professional counseling will also help matters. The victim may still regain their equanimity, if they move on to other organization and find their feet and voice.


Companies are fully alive to the growing menace of work place bullying and that the failure to address the problem in its entirety can prove to be a colossal mistake. Companies should take substantive steps to stamp out and obliterate work place bullies. Though companies have a anti-bullying policies in place, bullying is still rife across work places. If the anti-bullying were to succeed today, the stern message must percolate down the hierarchy that the bullying tactics are wholly unacceptable. Top management must display keen sensitivity towards the incidences of bullying brought forth by the targets. The top management should see the problem in proper perspective rather than brushing it aside as "raving and ranting from the whining kind" The top management should raise the awareness level about anti-bullying policies institutionalized by the company. Whenever the instances of bullying was brought to light, the management should investigate the matter seriously and objectively. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, care should be taken to ensure that the victim is protected. The investigation must be conducted must be conducted in a open, transparent and objective manner. The company should also arrange for assertiveness training for the benefit of employees. Create an empowered organization and vibrant culture, promoting diversity and employee-friendly culture.

Work place bullying is morally, socially indefensible and emotionally unacceptable. workplace bully is a monster who needs to be exorcised. work place

Bully do not have any place in a truly empowered organization.

Bullying is a serious problem. Put it down with heavy hand or Ignore the problem at your own peril. you have a choice.


N.R. Aravamudhan
Senior Faculty
Department of Management Studies
Suverna International Institute of Management Studies

Source: E-mail March 12, 2007


Back to Articles 1-99 / Back to Articles 100-199 / 200 onwards / Faculty Column Main Page


Important Note :
Site Best Viewed in Internet
Explorer in 1024x768 pixels
Browser text size: Medium