Understanding Workplace Bullying

Are you stuck in the nightmare of workplace bullying?


Perhaps you are an administrator, manager or coach dealing with a complaint. Or, you’re the target (again) of bullying. Maybe you’re “in recovery” but bullying is still all around you. If any of this is true for you, then you know that most analyses of bullying and most suggestions for handling it just don’t work. Why is this? And what can you do to help yourself?

First, you must understand that workplace bullying is both more complicated and more simple that you think.

Second, you must understand that no one wants to hear your tale of woe.

Third, understand that whatever your role—administrator, coach or target—it is UP TO YOU to take action to help yourself.

And, here’s your chance to gain the upper hand on workplace bullying.

So, who am I to tell you I have the answers? Read on.


Creating the Model-in the Beginning

I never intended to have The Bartle Conflict Model of Workplace Bullying Conflict. Around the year 2000, I was transitioning into private practice as a confidence coach and handling a lot of conflict issues but especially sexual harassment. I am a research sociologist by training with a Masters in Political Sociology and a CPhil (that means I did all the work to get a PhD but didn’t file – long story of life, health and even a bit of bullying).

I just left Caltech where I served as a Director handling conflict, leadership, and workplace violence issues for students, staff and faculty. The first years in private practice brought me many issues including bullying at work. Since I wasn’t up on the literature on workplace bullying, I did what all trained researchers do—I took off to the library (literally and figuratively) and searched out the latest and greatest theories and suggested interventions on workplace bullying.


Tired Useless Recommendations

To my dismay and frustration everything I was reading on bullying was pretty much a replication of all that was written about sexual harassment. From theories to research methods to findings and recommendations—I realized I could take any book on sexual harassment, pull out the words “sexual harassment” and plop in the word “bullying” and have a new publication.

The problem with using the old and tired recommendations on sexual harassment was that I knew these theories and recommendations didn’t help targets or administrators. Sexual harassment was (and is) alive and well. Every success I had in dealing with harassment came from customizing responses to the problem. Issues of character, power, workplace politics and gender (as well as race and age) run through sex harassment just as they run through workplace bullying.


Same Old Processes, Same Old Results

Formulaic approaches to interpersonal conflict—create a catch-all definition, write an educational brochure, write an anti-whatever policy, hold anti-whatever training programs, assign someone to investigate complaints and in the end use that general definition to find against the person complaining, and finally breath a sigh of relief that the case is over.


The Bucket Approach

What I found was the generally accepted definition of Workplace Bullying was a simple formula of bully vs. target. The measure of pain was the decline of physical well-being. The recommendation for the cure was to Stop the Bully. This is what I call the Bucket Approach. That is, take a complicated problem, make a simple definition and form some simple recommendations and then instruct companies to make it stop.


But the Bucket Approach Doesn’t Work

This Bucket Approach to understanding workplace bullying is disingenuous and dangerous. It doesn’t hold the company accountable for solutions. In fact, in a weird way it supports the bully because it becomes so easy to justify bad behavior, and it intimidates the victim by burdening him or her with proving that the bullying is real and harmful.


Bullying as Personal not Business Issue

The other thing I noticed in the Bucket Approach approach to workplace bullying was that it makes the matter purely personal. The bully is a “bad” boy or girl and the the target or victim is “weak” and troublesome. In either case, bad bully or bad target, everyone could just go about their business, ignore the situation and pretend that the business bottom line isn’t being impacted. Much like in situations of domestic violence, people would say “it’s personal” “we just don’t want to get involved” or  “let them work it out for themselves.” We treated bullying like a personal problem instead of a business dilemma which costs businesses billions every year!


Create Something That Works

What I did was study the research findings and figure out what was really happening—what were the most important individual causes and issues that needed to be understood in order to offer solutions that worked? That was my task. I sifted through mounds of primary data outlining types of behaviors. It took me awhile to figure it out, but I now have a model that I use with my individual and corporate clients. The model highlights 5 types of workplace bullying/conflict issues based on core causes. Understanding this model helps you to identify the type of bullying you’re dealing with. This can make all the difference for you because once you understand the type of bullying you’re dealing with, then you can take appropriate action on your own behalf.


The Model is for Everyone

It doesn’t matter if you are the target, the accused, the boss or the Human Resources professional. The model will help you figure out what to do about any workplace bullying situation.


So What is the Key to How the Model Works?

Let’s explore why the Bartle Conflict Model is different – and why it is accurate and effective, and why it is different than anything else out  there.


All Bullying is Contextual

There’s one unique thing that separates the Bartle Conflict Model from all the other information about bullying out there—whether it is the latest news article, program, speaker, or coaching program. The difference is this: all bullying is contextual.

That means it doesn’t happen in a vacuum—it happens in a real life situation, be it a school, a family, an organization, a business, or any other group. It is a dynamic. And every single group in which bullying occurs is different that the others.

And because all bullying is contextual, every response to bullying must be crafted and customized.

So what does that mean?

Well, it means pretty much the opposite of the Bucket Approach to bullying. Every bullying situation is different and unique. It depends on who is doing the bullying, the culture in which it is happening, the power dynamic within the culture, the type of bullying that is occurring, and the mindset and actions of the target(s).

That’s why when the mainstream discusses bullying, they’re really talking about a multitude of behaviors, targets, cultures, and perpetrators. And there’s no way that one solution will fit all.


Mistakes Made by Targets of Workplace Bullying

Unfortunately, most people make the same mistakes when dealing with bullying. Most targets make the same mistakes again and again, and the Bucket Approach usually makes it worse. In fact, 99% of how people respond to bullying is incorrect given the context.

  • The over-personalize aggressive behavior and forget to look at options

  • They blame themselves and lose their confidence and become ill

  • They go to HR with the wrong mindset making things worse

  • The surrender to being a victim and assume they are powerless to change the situation and thus things continue

  • They don’t consider the culture in which the bullying is occurring and how the company culture informs what actions they should take

  • They don’t understand the bully’s behavior or the motivation of the bully so they try different solutions that make things worse

  • They look for support with people who give well meaning but not very helpful advice


Mistakes HR or Management Make with Workplace Bullying

  • Try to placate everyone involved rather than deal with the situation

  • Hope that the bullying is just joking so not take it seriously

  • Assume that the problem is personal and not business related

  • Automatically side with the boss and assume the complainer is over-reacting

  • Automatically side with the complainer and assume the worst case

  • Look for specific evidence and ignore all the other signals that something is wrong

These mistakes lead to costly investigations, turnover, decreases in productivity, lower morale, missed deadlines and millions of dollars to a company bottom line.


The Reality: There are Different Bullying Behaviors

To avoid these costs and make good choices, it’s important to truly understand the different types of bullying and make the right decisions for all involved.

The model reframes workplace bullying into specific and correct categories, so that you can:

  1. Understand bullying in a more sophisticated and reasonable manner

  2. Respond to bullying in a more effective and sensible manner

  3. Know when resistance is futile and it’s time to get away instead of hope that help will come.


Different Behaviors lead to Different Solutions

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.


The Model Works


Empowerment Through Knowledge

My model is unique in that it is something anyone can understand, it covers most cases of bullying issues in the workplace, it offers applicable, straight-forward suggestions for handling bullying and it can be learned by most people.

“A miracle worker in the field of workplace conflict, Kathleen Bartle possesses a unique blend of compassionate insight and no-nonsense strategies for overcoming hostile workplace environments, making it possible to survive and transcend even the most challenging of circumstances.”

— L.L.


My model for understanding workplace bullying issues is unique because every bullying situation is unique. There is nothing like it out there.


Tested and Refined

The model works because it is based on taking proven research and then analyzing and interpreting it to find solutions that really work. And then testing these solutions through coaching and teaching. One client or small group at a time. Over time. Testing and refining. I stay on top of the research and have presented at an academic conference. As the world changes, I adapt the model to make it more effective.


Proven and Respected

My clients have included the U.S. State Department, the Progressive Jewish Alliance, The Jewish Federations of Los Angeles and San Francisco, Episcopal Home Communities, The Truman National Security Project of Washington DC, The University of California at Los Angeles (Department of Sociology and Department of Family Medicine Research) and University of Southern California (the Law School, Department of Engineering, Student Affairs and Provost offices), The California Institute of Technology’s myriad science departments, The Disability Rights Legal Center of Loyola University, and research departments throughout the United States and abroad.

Other clients include mid-level and startup non-profit organizations. I have had clients in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Germany and New Zealand. Researchers from these countries, as well as in Australia, are using my theories to design new methods for understanding workplace conflicts.

“For over almost seven years, Kathleen has been an invaluable support and resource for me as a non-profit leader.  Her no-nonsense, but compassionate coaching has helped me through countless difficult situations and conversations, both with those I manage and my peers.  The best part is that her predictions and advice in these situations is almost always spot on — when I don’t listen to her, I regret it!”  – Sarah Bruno, COO, Truman National Security Project



I don’t apply methods that are untested. I don’t apply solutions that are impractical. For example, there’s nothing worse than recommending someone confront a person who has a character disorder (type 3). You might as well throw a match onto a pile of old newspapers soaked in gasoline. Or, how about going to HR and bearing your soul to the HR Director who is only interested in protecting the company from a lawsuit. Believe me I have seen such bad advice given by people who should know better (therapists and other coaches). Yikes.



I have many, many solutions to offer but we have to take them one at a time. Each case is unique and sometimes we don’t know all the answers until we try one or two activities. It is critical that we work together for the best results. I won’t throw you into the deep end nor force you to take steps you can’t take.


Thoughtful & Empowering

In addition to the research on workplace bullying I have other great models of leadership, communication, conflict resolutions, negotiation and coaching that I use with you. You will turn into someone who can understand human behavior and you will become someone who will be bully-proof.



Your secrets are safe with me.


My Model Will Teach You:

  • To UNDERSTAND bullying in a more sophisticated and reasonable manner. Explanations of workplace lack relevance to real-life situations

  • How to OBSERVE what is actually happening. Understanding the problem in sophisticated way will give you a better sense of the whole situation.

  • How RESPOND to bullying in a more effective way. So much existing information simplifies the workplace bullying situation with recommendations that amount to bad advice.

  • To KNOW when coaching or managing is futile, and when to “cut your losses.” Sometimes finding an exit strategy is the best solution but it’s hard to know your options.

  • HOW to DISCUSS bullying with HR and other staff.  The more you understand workplace bullying the more power you have to use the right words and explanations so that you can have a successful outcome.

  • How to CONTROL yourself when faced with a bullying situation

  • How to SAVE your company’s precious time and resources by dealing with the bullying in an effective way. After learning the model and participating in the coaching session, you and your team can confront this behavior effectively as a team.

This Model & Coaching Session is For You…

  • If you are a manager, supervisor, or coach and need to deal with bullying at work

  • If you have ever suffered workplace bullying and want to be prepared for the next time

  • If you are suffering from a bullying situation now

  • If you want a truly helpful and effective approach to handling bullying at work

  • If you want a positive outcome from a bullying situation

  • If you are confused, in anxiety, or unsure what to do next

  • If you are ready to stop arguing and start working


What You Will Receive

Membership access to the Bartle Conflict Model includes:

  • SEPARATE EASY-TO-UNDERSTAND GUIDES to the different types of conflict behavior and what to do about them.

  • CONCISE DEFINITIONS to understand each type in a nutshell

  • COMMON SITUATIONS in which you will find each kind of behavior

  • BEHAVIORS that will help you classify the type and understand which kind of bully you are dealing with

  • CONSEQUENCES and impacts of the behavior for you and your organization

  • SOLUTIONS for each kind of behavior

  • CASE STUDIES on each kind of bullying/conflict behavior

This information is unique and cannot be found in other literature or programs about workplace bullying.

  • Membership also includes a complimentary coaching session with me to help you deal with your bullying and conflict situation and help get you started in resolving the situation and ending your nightmare. I’ve coached executives, business owners, managers, coaches and other professionals around the world – and helped them resolve their conflict situations.

  • A PDF copy of my ebook: Stop Arguing & Start Working: 6 Steps to Being Confident, Calm and Capable During Difficult Conversations at Work

  • A PDF copy of my special report: How to Identify and Handle Specific Triggering Behaviors that Cause and Exacerbate Workplace Conflicts

Lifetime members includes all updates and additions to the model as well as special training opportunities and discounted one-on-one coaching, subscriptions to my blogs and e-zines.

Lifetime membership is $150. Register Below via Paypal using your Paypal Account or your Credit Card.

Register Now