What are the Different Types of Office Bullying?

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Office bullying has become a common concern of many human resources professionals during the last decade. As more studies into the dynamics of workplace harassment and bullying have taken place, several types of office bullies have been identified. In fact, some office bullies may appear somewhat benign at first, with the fruits of their destructive behavior only manifesting after a prolonged period of subtle workplace intimidation.

One of the more obvious examples of office bullying is the aggressive bully. Bullies of this type actively look for ways to unsettle others in the workplace. People who engage is this tend to stand a little too close, speak a little too loud, and generally do everything in their power to rattle thought processes and prevent victims from gathering their wits in order to fight off the intimidation. If left unchecked, bullies of this type are likely to progress from verbal abuse to physical types of workplace violence.


A subtler type of office bullying is sometimes known as smart bullying. An individual engaging in this type of intimidation often considers himself or herself to be an expert on just about any subject, and is not shy about sharing that knowledge with everyone else. Often, the tone used to deliver this knowledge is calculated to imply that the recipient lacks the knowledge or skill necessary to assimilate the data and be efficient around the office, thus undermining the confidence of others. Rarely does the smart bully attack another individual with harsh words or other forms of direct verbal assaults. Instead, the bullying slowly erodes the confidence and enthusiasm of others in the workplace, and may result in poor employee performance, or the company losing employees that would have been assets in other circumstances.

The elite bully uses a method of intimidation that includes snubbing or shunning others, or making it a point to let others know they are not as good as the bully in some manner. The bullying may have to do with the way someone dresses or talks, or the salary or wages earned by a given employee. The snobbery can even extend to factors such as someone’s race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious preference. In some cases, the elite bully will point out how his or her attributes are inherently superior to everyone else in the office, sometimes in exquisite detail. At other times, the snobbery will be obvious, but communicated non-verbally.

In all its forms, office bullying weakens the efficiency of the workplace, usually by creating divisions within the office as well as undermining the confidence and performance of specific employees. Anyone from a department manager or supervisor to the receptionist can be the origin of bullying in the workplace. When behavior of this type of identified in any employee, steps to counsel and rehabilitate the employee should take place immediately. Should those efforts fail to produce a change, the bully should be strongly encouraged to seek work opportunities elsewhere as soon as possible, and be terminated as a means of assisting the bully in moving forward with that search.


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Post 9

My boss talked to me today, and she stated that she felt my attitude was not up to her expectations. I took a 12 week family leave to care for my father who was at end stage cancer and during my absence, she told me today, she sent out a survey asking the hospital workers their opinions of our small staff. We have 4 employees, but on any given day, only 2 are present.

To get to the point, she told me today about this survey she sent out while I was gone, and then asked me what did I think people had to say about me. I answered I have no idea and she asked again and I said

I don't know. I then said if they had bad things to say I did not want to hear it. She said no, there were no bad comments, and then she said but there were no good comments. She then said people had nothing to say about me, good or bad, and what did I think of that?

I stood there dumbfounded and had nothing to say. I asked myself why I did not ask what was the purpose or what prompted this survey, but I was just lost at that point. I am struggling at this point and it is troubling me greatly. I feel this is maybe bullying but more physiological abuse. Any thoughts?

Post 8

I have seen in a previous job a non aggressive woman getting bullied by another woman who reported to her on her team. It was cruel to see how this woman would talk down to her and speak to her in a tone that intimidating for her boss.

She would also give her the silent treatment by not saying goodbye to her in the evenings and ask other women what they were doing for lunch and not her manager, even though they all went for lunch together. She constantly undermined her in meetings making her boss look weak.

I have never experienced being managed by someone who was intimidated and bullied by her own employees.

Post 7

@turquoise-- A "no bullying" policy might work if the bullying is only done by regular employees. If it's done by the managers and supervisors themselves, then this policy isn't going to work because they are the ones that are supposed to enforce such a policy.

I'm not sure we can ever eliminate bullying completely from all places of work. Just think about the military. Bullying takes place a lot there because everything is about rank. It's just how it works, it's not realistic to think that we can prevent it. And maybe it has some positive outcomes too.

Some bullying might make people more disciplined, it might make them work harder or not repeat their mistakes. Don't you think?

Post 6

@MikeMason--I'm so sorry to hear about your experience.

I strongly believe that workplaces should have a no bullying policy. It's not just detrimental to people emotionally, but it affects efficiency at the work place. Why do people have to go through this?

Post 5

My previous boss engaged in a type of bullying that sounds very similar to both smart bullying and elite bullying. Basically, she would say things, often in the company of other people, that made me look incompetent and stupid and herself intelligent and superior.

So, for example, she would listen to me talking to someone, giving a piece of information and then she would repeat it at a later time in another situation to make it look like she's the only one who knows this. And she would try to point out my flaws in front of others to make me look incompetent.

Working with her was a horrible experience. Even though I was really good at what

I did and everything under my responsibility ran really smoothly, I had a very hard time being there because of my boss. I eventually quit, found a new job and work with really great, positive people.

I heard that my old boss still talks about me and what a great job I did there. How contradicting considering she made life for me at the office hell.

Post 4

I experienced some subtle bullying after starting my new job. My coworker who held the same title as me kept reminding me that he knew everything there was to know about computers, the programs we had to use, and the way the office worked in general.

Every time I had a question, he would say things like, “You really don't know the answer?” This made me feel inferior and like I didn't have anything to offer.

I actually considered quitting after the first week. However, I hate to surrender when things get hard, so I stuck it out. Now, I know even more than the bully, who quit a year after I started.

Post 3

My workplace views bullying and harassment as the same thing. This helps cut down on the kinds of annoying behavior that employees have to tolerate.

One guy who had been really popular in his fraternity landed a job at our company right out of college. He decided to try bullying the worker that he viewed as the weakest, a thin, quiet man with a nervous disposition.

He found out rather quickly that the boss was serious about intolerance for bullying. The boss himself had been bullied in school, so he was determined to fight against this kind of behavior in every way that he could.

Post 2

@giddion – Office bully tactics are slightly different from those that high school kids use, though. They morph into something more complex.

I was the victim of elite bullying at my job. Two of my female coworkers had been pampered by their rich families all their lives, and they continued to display the same snobby attitude that they always had.

They made snide comments about my clothing and my position, because they knew that I didn't make as much money as they did. They were in sales, and I was in graphic design.

I definitely had no desire to be part of their clique. What I really wanted was for the bullying to stop.

Post 1

Some people never grow up. It's amazing to me that bullying at work among grownups is even an issue.

I guess that kids who got away with being bullies in high school just never abandoned their ways. If I were the boss and I found out that someone in my office was being a bully, I would fire them immediately. There is no excuse for such childish behavior in adults, especially in a professional atmosphere!

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