New research breaks down bosses’ bullying behavior

by Oct 6, 2015

In this blog post, we will explore recent research focused on the analysis of bosses’ bullying behavior.

Tight deadlines, big projects and work pressure are just some of the things that employees deal with every day at the workplace. However, some may also need to contend with abusive and bullying behavior from co-workers or their supervisors.

Needless to say, the experience results to a negative working environment for bullying victims. It is also a difficult situation to handle and being subjected to workplace bullying over time will greatly affect a person’s mental health. In worst cases, it can also lead to suicide.

Understanding the Research on Bosses’ Bullying Behavior

A study conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute indicated that 27 percent of employees in the U.S. have experienced being bullied at work, in most cases from their supervisors. Other similar studies also showed that bullying is becoming prevalent in the workplace.

However, a new study made by researchers Charlice Hurst, Ken Kelley and Timothy Judge from the Department of Management at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business and Lauren Simon of Portland State University, looked at how a supervisor’s bullying behavior has affected the employee and superior’s relationship over time. 

The study’s results showed interesting responses from bullied employees such as withdrawal and retaliation. It also provided an interesting peek at the possible reasons as to why or how the bosses developed their abusive behaviors, whether it stemmed from their childhood or personal lives, or as a result of a highly competitive organization. Let’s explore some examples and ways of addressing bullying behavior shown by bosses.

Here are some examples of bosses’ bullying behavior:

  1. Micro-Management

   This is where excessive supervision happens, resulting in employees feeling undervalued and incompetent even the smallest details of their work.

  2. Public Humiliation

   Belittling employees in front of their peers or superiors, resulting in employees feeling ashamed, anxiety and self-doubt.

  3. Unfair Treatment

   Treating some employees favorably while being unequal to others, leading employees to consider leaving the organization.

  4. Verbal Abuse

   Use of insulting words, hurtful, or offensive language directed at employees. This may discourage employees from sharing ideas and avoid interaction with colleagues.

  5. Discrimination

   Treating employees unfairly based on their gender, race, age, or other protected characteristics. This will lead to conflict and affect relationships within the organization.

How do we break down bosses’ bullying behavior in the workplace?

  • Establish Anti-Bullying Policy

An organization must implement clear and comprehensive anti-bullying policies that outline the expected behavior and consequences of bullying. Communicate these policies to all employees and ensure they understand them.

  • Open Communication

Employees need to engage in respectful communication with the boss to address concerns. Share how their behavior is affecting them and express a desire to resolve the issue.

  • Document Incidents

Always keep a record of bullying incidents, noting dates, times, locations, and any witnesses. This documentation can be valuable if they need to escalate the issue.

  • Escalate the Issue

If the bullying continues and the internal team does not provide resolution, escalate the matter to higher management or relevant authorities within the organization.

  • Seek Support

Talk to trusted colleagues, HR professionals, or employee assistance programs to seek guidance and emotional support.

Addressing bullying behavior between bosses and employees is super important for an organization. Figuring out a solution is key to making the workplace safer and more respectful for everyone.

To read more about the subject, click here to read the full article.

Do you know how much money chronically bad behavior costs your company? Spoiler alert – it’s a LOT higher than you want it to be. Download our data and worksheet to see how it’s costing your organization and what you can do to fix it.


About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

Your Culture Matters as Much as Your Legal Compliance

Legal compliance serves as the bedrock of any organization. While it lays the foundation, a positive workplace culture breathes life into your organization. A strong, supportive culture fosters employee engagement, boosts morale, and enhances productivity.  This...

How We Create Respectful Work Cultures

For the past 15 years, we have been dedicated to transforming toxic workplace cultures and fostering positive environments through executive coaching, corporate training, and large-scale culture change projects. We’ve serviced over 250 clients and their thousands of...

42% of employees would QUIT over political disagreements

Is it appropriate to restrict employees from expressing their political views at work? On the one hand, you want people to feel free to express themselves. But then, you don't want those water cooler chats to turn into full-blown political showdowns. According to a...

Why Retaining Top Talent is More Difficult Than Ever

Finding and keeping great employees can be tough for companies all over. With changes in employee expectations, advancements in technology, and shifts in the job market, it's a real challenge. In 2019, a whopping 42 million U.S. workers alone said "so long" to their...

Can Your Corporate Culture Influence Workplace Violence?

Workplace violence is a serious concern for organizations worldwide. While there are many reasons why it happens, one thing that doesn't get enough attention is the company culture itself. How people act and treat each other at work can make violence more or less...

How to Utilize Culture Surveys for Cultural Change

Surveys are a wonderful resource for measuring the success of culture change. Many clients approach us with the awareness of a cultural problem…but an inability to identify the cause. And that’s where we step in, often using survey scores as an identifier.  Let’s take...

Microaggressions Can Become Part of an Organization’s Culture. Here’s Why

We're talking a lot about making sure everyone feels included and respected in the workplace. But sometimes, it's not the big, obvious stuff that makes people feel excluded and disrespected - it's the little things. We have likely all experienced situations where...

5 Unfair and Discriminatory Hiring Practices That Go Unnoticed

Businesses that prioritize diversity in their workforce significantly increase the likelihood of fostering creative and innovative thinking among their employees by 150%. Also, companies with a lot of different ethnicities and races in their management team are 35%...

How the Lack of Training Affects your Organization

The workforce is the heart of any thriving company. However, without proper training, employees may find themselves ill-equipped to meet the demands of their roles effectively.  Millennials think learning and growing are important reasons for joining a new company....

Why it’s Getting Harder for Some Women to Report Harassment

The United Nations Women found that about 1 in every 3 women has been sexually harassed at work. 3 out of 4 of them never report it to a manager, HR or anyone else. Imagine a world where every woman is treated with the respect and dignity she deserves. Unfortunately,...