Bullies at the office

Preserving a healthy office environment

Have you ever encountered or have been an overtly cranky human being who delivers their own internal drama in unhealthy ways? This display of “animal planet” behavior is all too often exhibited right smack in the middle of the office dance floor with an eager audience observing from a distance…or not.  There are many different expressions of bullying behavior, ranging from out-right physical abuse to the silent stealth bombers who manipulate with threats, accusations and gossip.

The office arena provides the optimal environment for control over other people, which some have suggested is “weakness disguised as strength.” Weakness disguised as strength shows up in the following behavior:

Controlling other people for one’s own advantage, often manifesting in threats using unkind intonation and requests that put things above people. Control over other people actually moves from a very low frequency and sense of self along with being incapable of seeing the value and learning opportunity contained in another person’s point of view and life experience. Being out of control for this person is absolutely terrifying: “Who would I be if I could not control the behavior of other people, events and situations for my own advantage?”

Comparisons that result in jealousy often give birth to gossip and passive/aggressive manipulation. People create unhealthy comparisons when they feel that someone else has something they need in order to feel successful; enough; capable; valued; recognized; important. Rather than rejoicing in another person’s accomplishments without feeling threatened or inferior, this behavior results from an illusion which often comes back to bite the hand that feeds it and is fueled by the statement “If I cut you down, I feel better about me.” Being able to purely rejoice in a colleague’s accomplishments reveals a profound sense of self-security in one’s unique contribution, gifts and talents it is a wonderful alternative to unhealthy comparisons.

Exploding behavior when life doesn’t meet expectations, similar to that of a toddler denied a cookie before dinner. When the primal brain is driving this bus, everything in its path will be destroyed. Ultimatums and unrealistic demands are often seen spewing out of the mouth of this hungry lion or lioness: “I didn’t get what I wanted so you are going to have to pay.” Innocent bystanders are often taken down in the wake of explosive negative behavior.

Lying: People lie or stretch the truth for their own advantage when they feel weak and insecure or when ego is occupying the internal castle: I want this, and I will lie, cheat and distort the truth in order to get what I want. Again, we see flashbacks to a two-year-old tantrum, yet this expression often slides in under the radar, taking advantage of people undercover. Many times, lies (including stretching the truth) flow from fear: of other people’s reactions; not getting a desired outcome; judgment. Remember, fear is simply an emotion. An emotion is your body’s response to your thought life and fear flows directly from a perception that you will not be able to handle a situation successfully.

Companies that create effective clear communication systems between the different layers of personalities, job responsibilities and stimulus/reward factors are more apt to monitor and respond to unhealthy bullying behavior. Championing employees to recognize the importance of “on the floor” monitoring of behavior that steps outside of the agreed-upon corporate culture is essential, along with effective guidance systems.

Why? Because people thrive under two conditions: safety and connection. Bullying is the result of unmanaged internal mayhem and requires acute attention and action, particularly when it comes to job placement, satisfaction and team-building.  Many schools have bully monitoring systems in place which champion the students to create and actively participate in an environment which honors the people they want to be in the world and the place of safety they want to play and create within.

Categories: Business Insights, Human Resources