Written by Jean R. McFarland, Ph.D.
Do you have Snarly Screamers where you work? You know, those people who rant and rave and scream over everything and nothing. Or how about Chronic Critics? You can’t do anything right for them; whereas, the Two-Faced Scoundrel is very nice to you- before biting you in the back with rumors and lies. And we probably all know Gatekeepers, those people who withhold information or detour materials you need to do your job. These are some of the behaviors of workplace bullies.
Workplace behavior ranges from artificially harmonious on one end of a behavior continuum to bullying on the opposite end. Neither is conducive to optimizing employee engagement and productivity, but bullying remains the more destructive to employees and employers.
The goal of a workplace bully is to undermine and drive out a targeted employee by using an arsenal of negative behaviors, which can be described as psychological violence. Workplace bullies rarely resort to physical violence. They know the social and political rules of the organization and act within those boundaries.
Interestingly, we tend to think of bullies as wall-banging, phone-throwing Snarly Screamers, but they represent all types of personalities and social styles. They may be highly reserved and not display their emotions; they may be very demure, but passive aggressive. They may even seem to be pleasantly supportive as they plant untruths about you behind your back.
As the SDI&® shows, strengths that are overdone become weaknesses. The leadership strengths of a “Red” or the autonomizing strengths of a “Green,” for example, when overdone, could lead to intense competitiveness and uncivil or bullying behavior. These extremes become apparent with the use of pre-employment inventories such as the SDI. Understanding these behaviors helps in selecting new employees.
For targets and managers of bullies in organizations that did not use or overlooked pre-selection screening inventories, Bullies Among Us, What To Do When Work’s No Fun, is a practical resource. This book shows how targets of bullies can defend themselves, and how managers and targets can build a dollar-based case against workplace bullying-so employers can see how much bullies really cost the company.
At the 2008 Human Resources-Southwest Region Conference, Bonnie Mattick, M.A.Ed., MBA, and I presented a workshop on effects of extreme workplace behavior on employees and the bottom line, and the value of SDI in identifying and reacting to workplace behaviors.
Is behavior in your organization productive or destructive? Identify your employees’ behaviors and behavioral intensity. It can help you make decisions about how to deploy employees’ skills and about employee retention.