Workplace bullying demeans the target and costs firms billions of dollars annually in lost wages, productivity, and medical costs. One reaction to the effects of the bullying behavior is that targets leave their job – taking critical knowledge and experience with them, causing incalculable costs to the firm

Many reasons abound as to why workplace bullying behavior occurs; first, the need to distinguish between a bully and an aggressive leader. Research and leadership scholars acknowledge that certain workplace cultures breed hostility depending on top leaders’ central role; thus, supervisory incompetence can trigger workplace aggression. One researcher states the hypothesis that “there will be more friendliness among individuals in a cooperative situation than in a competitive situation.” There is a fragile line between a bully and an aggressive leader. The way to distinguish is by asking, “What does this interaction have to do with the work at hand?” Bullies target people; aggressive leaders target the work.

In studies of organizational risk, researchers found evidence that organizational dynamics, rather than individual or interpersonal processes, underlie the occurrences of workplace bullying. One suggested improvement is providing more training for leadership and management staff to help combat workplace bullying. At the same time, while there is no shortage of leadership curricula, courses, and workshops, rampant workplace bullying continues to hurt organizations worldwide furthermore, with bullies rarely receiving any punishment from leadership if the occurrence of workplace bullying is even acknowledged. Unfortunately, most research models designed to identify good leaders determine how their traits affect an organization’s profit or ranking. The leaders’ success is not measured by how their behavior affects workplace conditions due to the lack of consequences when they misbehave. It allows workplace bullying to infiltrate the firm.

In addition, researchers have also found that firms led by authoritarian leaders, particularly those with productivity demands, are susceptible to having a misuse of legitimate leadership authority or controlling behavior towards others. When such leadership behavior prevails, the stated core values of the firm are at odds with what employees find are the manifested core values, thus giving a pervading sense of permission by leadership for employees to act abusively.

When leaders display workplace bullying, it shows signs of job insecurity, high job strain, stress due to high demands, and low control overwork. Some researchers believe that individual competition among coworkers, with pressure to move up the corporate ladder or be shown the door, is the genesis of workplace bullying. Others found that Capitalism and Darwinism contribute to fight-for-the-fittest and only-the-strong-survive mindsets. Such attitudes contribute to the lower-class workers giving up power to the domineering workers – many with poor management skills – who earn undue rewards for being the most aggressive and achieving lofty goals. They continue their assault as they move up the corporate ladder.

One researcher studied the skills considered critical for a successful leader: truthfulness, authenticity, and modesty. Yet despite numerous books, workshops, and required coursework that business leaders are exposed to over their careers, workplaces worldwide are filled with disengaged, disaffected, and dissatisfied employees.” It indicated that leadership is not revealed in action because most leadership training focuses on being a good leader for the firm’s good, not on the leader’s interests. Therefore, the leader’s perceived failure occurs when things go wrong for the firm, not when the situation turns sour for the employees. Sometimes leaders are torn between their interests, such as performance, job security, salary, promotion, moving to another firm, and juggling those interests against the firm’s differing group needs and the group’s good, for example, higher returns, more significant profits.

Leaders must often sacrifice one need for the other, as very few leaders succeed at both. Based on his concept, individuals who are subordinate to such leaders may end up neglected: “There is far from a complete correspondence between what is good for a company ··. And what is for the company’s leader,” said one researcher. Presumably, leaders are interested primarily in the organization’s well-being; however, many are interested only in their well-being, a potential characteristic not usually considered in leadership studies. Often bullying is used to advance a manager’s agenda – rendering the target subservient, humiliating a person in front of the team – rather than getting work done. Bullying prevents work from getting done because it interferes. Bullying undermines the agency’s leadership mission and erodes corporation profits.[1]

[1] The Relationship Between Transgression-Related Internal Motivations, Workplace Bullying, and the Bullied Target’s Turnover Intention by Dr. Suzanne R. Seyda-Bowen, published by ProQuest LLC, Ann Arbor, 2019, pp. 4-6

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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  1. Lifetime Chicago says:

    I have been in education for many years as a teacher, administration positions and now assistant. This is my retirement job since I am 65. The principal I have had for three years….wanting to get ahead…suddenly became angry, rude and wrote a horrible review. Just a week ago.. when all have been excellent. He was upset because I missed a direction. I have called in the troops…HR and the union and I will play the game until retirement next year. I am shocked at his perceptions but calling in others and God…now others are seeing his issues. Thank you for this!

    Liked by 1 person

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