Are you a Bully at Work? 6 Signs of your own Shortcomings


From schools to building sites to the office, bullying can happen everywhere. Why is it so prevalent and problematic to prevent? Often times it’s because bullies don’t even realise that their actions constitute bullying.

We often attribute bullies as historically having a low IQ or poor social skills; however, it has been shown in workplace studies that this isn’t necessarily the case. (Although lacking in emotional intelligence may contribute to people failing to recognise themselves as bullies).

How can you tell whether you have bullying tendencies or is your personality firm but fair? While it is not possible to diagnose a bully; however if you think some of the points below apply to you, it may be worth thinking about how to approach others with softer treatment:

1. You feed off your colleague’s insecurities.

This is textbook bullying behaviour. If you make yourself feel better by evoking uneasiness or self-doubt in a colleague’s work, be it professional or personal. This could be unknowingly done, for example by persistently singling someone out or intentionally setting them up for failure on a task.

2. Others often tell you about unknowingly upsetting a coworker.

You may notice this manifesting in other ways than direct confrontations or complaints about your behaviour. Perhaps this colleague becomes upset often or you identified this colleague as being overly sensitive or taking work too personally? These reactions are indeed a red flag and should be taken seriously.

3. You wouldn’t describe yourself as compassionate.

Having empathy or being empathetic is not always easy to recognise upon self-reflection. Do you care if you see a colleague upset? Try to think what your go-to emotion is, would you show concern? Or rather let them work it out alone? You could try asking others close to you what they think; or even take a personality test specialising in empathy.

4. You can become hostile quickly.

This could include more obvious actions such as raising your voice, intimidating or embarrassing someone in front of other team members. However, this also extends to less obvious actions such as making passive aggressive comments towards someone such as “You want to do it your way? Ok good luck with that!”

5. You enjoy gossiping about other colleagues.

While this may feel insignificant or even like you’re bonding with others, but spreading rumours or gossiping about others can be detrimental to both their personal and professional success. Also, it may even get back to them inadvertently and make them feel worse.

6. You misuse your influence or authority.

This may be characterised by more obvious signs such as wanting to stop a coworker’s promotion, or take credit for others work. take away duties and responsibilities could mean intentionally and persistently disregarding or excluding someone from work and social events without any rationale or reason.

Bullying is particularly common in toxic work environments, and can take place in stressful offices where workload is high and so management is low and often doesn’t see intricate team relations. When the leadership is poor this can create a culture that rewards competitive behavior and limits growth.

Workplace bullying and harassment is a lot more common than you think and can activate a display of mental health issues including burnout, increased workplace absence, stress and low self-esteem. If you feel any of the above may apply to you, try to change negative interactions with colleagues into better ones.

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