to cause stress,
Why bullies bully is one of the issues addressed by Judy Blando, DM, CPC, in her doctoral dissertation. She noted that the American Psychological Association defines “bullying" as “aggressive behavior that is intended to cause harm or distress, occurs repeatedly over time, and occurs in a relationship where there is an imbalance of power or strength.”
For her research, which examined being bullied in relation to job satisfaction and productivity, Dr. Blando defined bullying as “a situation in which one or more individuals perceive they are subjected to consistent, persistent, and negative repetitive acts that are meant to harm.” This broader definition implies that a bully could also be a subordinate, a co-worker – and also a “she.” Anyone will do – just as long as the intent is to cause the target mental or physical stress and anguish.
Dr. Blando uses the term “target” instead of “victim” to avoid disempowering the individual being bullied. People bully for different reasons, and here’s a 10,000-foot view of some of them.
– Workplace bullies who are insecure consider the target a threat and may even envy him or her. They seek to control. By dominating someone they perceive as more competent than themselves, they try to hide their inadequacy and feel more in control.
– Chronic bullies are the ones who bully because they may have a personality disorder, such as narcissism, which prevents them from seeing their behavior as wrong. Narcissists must have their needs met and may see other people as little more than objects to be used for that purpose. Chronic bullies have been described as the most dangerous. Some chronic bullies think quite highly of themselves – for example, as being superior, powerful and entitled.
Bullies in the middle
Dr. Blando describes several bully types, including the “pressurized” bully, whose aggressive behavior is temporary and due to either internal or external pressures. Another example is the “accidental” bully, who has never learned to interact socially and doesn’t realize how his actions are affecting other people. She notes that not all bullies lack empathy, and some may even experience occasional feelings of shame.
So, it seems that like most workplace research issues, bullying is more complicated than it appears on the surface.
▪ Who gets bullied? Compliant high-achievers often targeted
▪ Signs that a workplace bully might be a narcissistic sociopath
▪ High-demand, low-control at work is stressful and unhealthy
Fisher-Blando, J. (2008). Workplace bullying: Aggressive Behavior and its Effect on Job Satisfaction and Productivity.
Image: Painting by Pieter Breughel the Elder in Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria. Photo by Michiel2005, real name unavailable.
Jan is the author of The Cultural Psyche of India: Guidance for the U.S. Marketer. She is a member of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology and an associate member of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. She holds a master's in organizational psychology from the University of London and has written as a consultant for the life sciences industry since 1993.