Bartle Conflict Model™

Defining Workplace Bullying: How Much Detail do We Need?

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute workplace bullying:

  • Is driven by perpetrators’ need to control the targeted individual(s).
  • Is initiated by bullies who choose their targets, timing, location, and methods.
  • Escalates to involve others who side with the bully, either voluntarily or through coercion.
  • Undermines legitimate business interests when bullies’ personal agendas take precedence over work itself.
  • Is akin to domestic violence at work, where the abuser is on the payroll.

This is “Classic” Bullying, and the definition is what I call the “Bucket” explanation for bullying, that is, when all abrasive and bullying behaviors are thrown together and defined in the simplest way. This is helpful for people trying to give a quick explanation of bullying, but it is not helpful when you are thinking about your own experiences and about what actions to take.

It is not helpful because the behavior we call “bullying” is really a range of behaviors from abrasive, annoying stuff to the hard-core “classic” behaviors. Based on evaluating over 20 years of research into bullying type behaviors, I have determined five different types of aggressive behavior. Each type of behavior has its own cause and its own approach to resolve them.

This is critical to understand because the point of dealing with aggressive behavior is to understand it and to resolve it. If we apply the wrong approach to an aggressive behavior, we are bound to fail, make things worse, and feel more frustrated and hopeless. Applying the wrong approach to dealing with aggressive behavior is costly too.

Here are the five types of aggressive behavior in the workplace.

General Abrasive Behavior:

Abrasive types run meetings with an iron fist. They complain about team members’ competence, yet feel like the victim, and wonder why people won’t approach them. They are easy to coach and respond well to specialized coaching. Read more…

Manipulative Leadership:

Some managers that believe the proper way to motivate people is to use scare tactics and pit people against one another because it stimulates competition and improves productivity. They believe and say that people only perform if you make them. Manipulative leaders are tough clients for professional coaching, but they can learn new management styles. Read more…

High Conflict Personality:

These are people with genuine psychological issues. They are often extreme paranoid and narcissistic. Sometimes they have anxiety disorders or are sociopathic. Such disorders are difficult to control and can be terribly aggressive and scary. They definitely do not respond well to a reasoned request for improved behavior. Read more…

Strategic Abrasive Behavior:

People displaying strategic abrasive behavior often work in very competitive fields such as law, medicine, or academia. They are extremely competitive and want to win. They gossip, lie, cheat, and destroy work in an effort to get ahead. But, the attacks are not personal either. If you are in a workplace that is hierarchical and competitive, then expect this type of abrasive behavior. This may seem to be “bullying” but it is really a function of the career path and workplace demands.  Read more…

Malicious or Classic “Bullying” Behavior:

People who display bullying behavior target one person at a time. They often make their target the subject of public ridicule. The better or more competent their target, the more attacks. They attack one target, then move on to the next. They fear excellence in others and view people as either friends or enemies. The true bully is very hard to manage and a combination of responses will be needed to manage the behavior and stop the abuse. Read more…

I know from my 20 years of experience in workplace conflict resolution that a “one-size-fits-all” solution does not work. Commonly used options (including mediation, arbitration, leadership training, and litigation) rarely change the situation.

Truth is, every conflict situation is different, and each one requires customized expert analysis to determine the cause of the conflict and the correct approach to a solution. I provide results to ending all five kinds of conflict based on my 20 years of experience. See Scope of Services.

I provide results in resolving all kinds of conflict situations for individuals and corporations. If you find yourself facing any of these kind of conflicts, I’d be glad to help.

Please contact me.