Lack of Empathy- Do All People Who Bully At Work Share This Trait?

Lack of Empathy- Do All People Who Bully At Work Share This Trait?

As an employer, you have probably more than once been at your wit’s end dealing with a person who is being abrasive or who is bullying others. A common frustration you may have is wishing “If only this person can see it from the other person’s perspective we could solve this problem.” or “Why can’t this person see that their behavior is hurting others?”

You think this because you have empathy. For most of us, empathy is something so hard-wired into our system that we are very confused when others don’t react the way we expect them to in a work or social situation. But many aggressive people have a lack of empathy, so offering our empathy or calling out the bully’s empathy does not work.

Lack of Empathy– Do All People Who Bully At Work Share This Trait?

To discover that there are different types of abrasive and aggressive people in the workplace. Here are the five types I have identified. You will notice who has empathy and who does not:

# 1 Abrasive Behaviors: Abrasive people are really unaware of their behavior. They are always shocked and upset when someone accuses them of bullying. They have empathy for other but lack self-awareness. They are easy to coach and they respond well to specialized coaching.

#2 Manipulative Leaders: These bullying types believe aggression improves productivity. Manipulative leaders have a lack of empathy for others and are tough clients for professionals to coach, but they can learn new management styles.

#3 Troubled People: Those with a true “character disorder” do not demonstrate a lot of empathy and they definitely do not respond well to a reasoned request for improved behavior. If employers want to keep these people because of their value to the Company, then it is best to remove them from management responsibility.

#4 Strategic Aggressors: Strategic aggressors know what they are doing and are aggressive because they are trying to win. You’ll find them in highly competitive fields such as law, medicine, or academia. There is no empathy here. But, the attacks are not personal either. If you are in a workplace that is hierarchical and competitive, then expect this type of aggressive behavior. This may seem to be bullying but it is really a function of the chosen career path, the self-selection of competitive players and the workplace culture’s demands.

#5 Bullies: Bullies are filled with fear but they are quite different from the other aggressors. They tend to target one person and once they have destroyed him/her, they move on to another. This type of aggressor has a lack of empathy and these attacks are very, very personal. The true bully is very hard to manage and a combination of responses will be needed to manage the behavior and stop the abuse.

Lack of Empathy Makes it Complicated

With these insights into how empathy plays into different types of abrasive and aggressive behavior, you can understand why handling workplace conflict is so complicated and why your success rate may not be what you wish. Do not despair. You can learn how to identify the types of abrasive and aggressive behavior and you can learn what to do in each type of situation. For a more complete explanation of the model, visit: Conflict Model.