Organizational Bullies

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented” -Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Winner


A national survey conducted by The Workplace Bullying Institute revealed that 35% of the U.S. workforce has experienced workplace bullies at some time in their career, while 15% report witnessing employees being emotionally and psychologically abused. (When extrapolated out, that is approximately 54 million employees.) Anything that affects that great a percentage of the public has to be classified as an epidemic…but it’s a silent epidemic. In a different survey by the Employment Alliance revealed that only a shocking 7% of bullies were fired or even reprimanded.

The vast majority of bullies share three common personality characteristics: 1. Their inability to establish and maintain a sense of trust by their employees, 2. Their inability to communicate clearly and effectively, and 3. Their inclination to avoid a sense of accountability. A few of the most common types of bullies that exist in the corporate world are the following:

The Intellectual Bully

Intellectual BullyThis type of bully is best described as “a guru wannabe”. He/she is motivated by the need to be recognized as “the go-to person” no matter what the question. It irritates them for their employees to seek out others for advice, help, or direction. Their underlying objective is to instill a sense of stupidity and incompetence in their people by using words and a condescending attitude as their instruments of abuse and intellectual superiority. When working on projects with their employees they tend to leave out large gaps of information because they consider that type of information to be obvious and needs no explanation. The employee then fills in those gaps with what they “think” the bully means rather than run the risk of intellectual ridicule as a result.

The Intellectual Bully can easily become a bottle neck within the organization when it comes to information or situations that require a timely decision. They are prone to be overly critical in their attempts to discover the flaws in any project or proposal. Due to their overly critical nature they tend to stifle and new ideas from their staff thus robbing the organization of any creativity and novel approaches to problem solving.

The Screamer

shutterstock_36632167This type of bully is sometimes referred to as “a tyrant”, “serial bully”, and even “a sociopath”. They are prone to hound their victims without mercy. They tend to be motivated by power and control over their employees and utilize tactics of threats of intimidation, berating, and verbal attacks regarding the employee’s competency. The screamer is emotionally volatile, unpredictable, vindictive and completely untrustworthy as a result. Employees try to avoid any contact with the bully for fear of becoming a victim of his wrath. They are often very intelligent, charming (especially to senior level management) with powerful skills of persuasion. But, even with their verbal skills they have the emotional temperament of a five-year-old throwing a temper tantrum.

With their charismatic and charming demeanor they many times gravitate to positions of authority and attain executive levels of management. This type of behavior pattern can be referred to “sucking up to management and slamming down the employees.” Their cost to the company is seen in high turnover, an operating atmosphere of high stress, and the expense that derives from low morale.

The Two-headed Snake

Two headed snake bullyThe two-headed snake is a quiet and convincing bully that normally works behind the scene. Their covert actions are motivated by a need to establish a sense of security in their personal standing while advancing their professional goals and career by attacking the victim’s credibility. They are prone to gather an arsenal of information about their victim that can be used against them when the bully thinks it’s the opportune time. Once the snake has been revealed they are no long considered trustworthy due to their lack of respect for confidentiality, back stabbing, lying, and phony nature. They operate on a philosophy of “sticks and stones will break my bones but whispers, rumors, innuendos, and lies can ruin their victim’s career.”

The snake can be very disruptive within an organization by spewing their venom to alienate and isolate employees, which serves to have a toxic and sometimes devastating effect on the group dynamics within the team.

Queen Bee Bully

QueenBee LaptoThe queen bee is a female boss who not only has zero interest in fostering the careers of women who aim to follow in her footsteps, but who might even actively attempt to sabotage their attempts. What makes the queen bees so effective and aggravating is that they are able to exploit female vulnerabilities that men may not see, using tactics that their male counterparts might never even notice. They find their professional lives dominated by high school “mean girls” all grown up: women with something to prove and a precarious sense of security. That is why the victims never see verbal attacks coming and are powerless to prevent them. The attacks take the form of sarcastic comments about the victim’s appearance or style of dress, unreasonable expectations for performance, and the results are never good enough. Far from nurturing the growth of younger female talent, they push aside possible competitors by chipping away at their self-confidence or undermining their professional standing. Unlike the male bully, the queen bee directs her hostilities toward their own gender 80% of the time. It’s not easy to become a professional woman in corporate cultures that are still male dominated. They assume their perches may be pulled from beneath them at any given moment. They try to ensure their own dominance by keeping others, especially women, down.

The unfortunate result for the company is that many times the victims reach a point in the relationship of feeling frustrated, berated, of being set up for failure, and in an organization that has no opportunities for advancement. The company ends up losing some of its best and brightest employees.