1. Issue “When the playground bully turns up in your team”
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When the playground bully turns up in your team

Do you ever wonder what happened to the playground bully of your childhood? The boy or girl who tormented you, called you names, hit you, teased you and any of the gamut of things that bullies do? Did he change? You wonder – did she outgrow her behaviour and become a sweet, caring soul? Wishful thinking ….. chances are that person is still a bully, no longer on the playground but now at work. And he/she could very well be a member of your team.

You may not realize it as the bully of your childhood will likely have honed his/her skills to become a master bully in adulthood, so masterful that it is difficult to identify and therefore deal with their behaviour.

In my experience as a facilitator, trained and experienced in observing and understanding the behaviour of individuals in groups, here are some of the behaviours I have observed that suggest you may have a the bully in the workplace:

  1. Extreme behaviour – one minute pleasant and sweet, the next ranting and raving. This unhinges the team, as they never know what will happen next. I have seen this many times – the helpful employee who inexplicably “turns” and bad-talks behind my back, stirring up dissent to the change initiative I am facilitating.
  2. Backstabbing – the bully thrives on gossip, the equivalent of name-calling on the playground. He/she will tell stories, even lies about you in an effort to intimidate and discredit you.
  3. Excessive and detailed missives – e-mail is the workplace bully’s ally, allowing him/her the opportunity to rant in great detail to a wide audience. Those e-mails in which you have been cc’ed or bcc’ed? Could be a bully at work.
  4. Deflects criticism by pointing fingers at others. The workplace bully never takes responsibility and is quick to point out the faults of others. The bully is always right by making others wrong.
  5. Targets the weaker members of the team. The bully is the alpha dog, and typically turns on the weakest member of the team, terrifying him or her, pointing out faults to others and getting them to attack. All whilst the bully sits quietly aside.
  6. The bully at work may take credit for others’ ideas, often after telling them “that would never work” and then going off to present them as his/her own.

As an “outsider”, I wonder how these bullies are never caught and punished. I realise that they have become so skilled that it is difficult to bring decisive action against them.

The yelling and screaming may be done under his/her breath – loud enough for you to hear, but not loud enough for the powers-that-be to notice. A sheepish smile from the CEO when I make such an observation confirms that even they may be just as bullied as other employees.

It’s a very sad situation to have bullies at work. Be on the lookout for them, and take disciplinary action sooner rather than later. Their behaviour should not be tolerated. Inside every bully is a cowering child, who likely has been the victim of bullying in his/her life. Bullies are not brave – they are cowards. Shining light on their practices can be very effective in getting them to cease.

And one other thing: make sure YOU are not the bully in the workplace!

Here are two online articles on bullying:
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If you identify a bully in your team, take some time to observe their behaviour very carefully and then have a conversation. Keep the discussion about the behaviour you observe and the impact it is having on you and the team. Be specific – not “You always shout in meetings” but “I observed in our team meeting last week that when we were discussing the issue of low sales, you raised your voice”. Listen more than talk. Do not be afraid of silence – use it to your advantage. Speak your word and then wait for the person to respond. At all costs, keep calm. Be willing to reschedule for another time if this first discussion gets heated. Remember that the bully has been behaving this way for a long time, and so change will be slow.


Are you tired of people complaining? Love this idea of a Complaints Choir! It’s a great, fun way for people to vent. Don’t dismiss it – once people get their complaints out, they create space that they can choose to fill with more complaints, or compliments!
– click to view article

Happy people are not happy by chance – they make conscious decisions about what they say and do. Here are 17 things that extremely happy people say every day. As one who is committed to being happy, and to radiating happiness wherever I am, I agree!
– click to view article

Check out these short videos from my friend Diane Craig at Executive Presence. Yes, they are promos, but they provide some quick dos and don’ts for improving how you present yourself to others.
– click to view videos



My most recent blog posts:

Back to Reality – this IS My reality!click HERE for post
Letting go does not mean giving upclick HERE for post
True Leadershipclick HERE for post