Stand Up Against Bullying: A blog to help stop workplace bullying
Organizations Leadership

What are the warning signs a worker is becoming a bully?

Published November 1, 2021

More often than not, workers exhibit early warning signs before they erupt into a full-blown workplace bully. Warning signs are red flags that indicate problems in the work culture. Leaders need to be aware of the early signs so they can address the issues before their organization develops a bully culture.
In order to recognize the early signs of a bully, leaders need to open their eyes and be aware that bullying can exist in their organization. Leaders do not have to wait for allegations of bullying to be made to recognize see that a worker may be transforming into a bully.

Leaders should be observing the behavior of their workers in meetings and their interactions with other workers on a consistent basis. Leaders should examine both the verbal and non-verbal behavior and interactions to determine whether they may have a potential persistent workplace aggressor in their midst. This allows them to develop a perspective on every worker’s individual behavior and the impact it has on the overall workplace environment. It also allows leaders to recognize changes in workers behaviors.
The following list are behaviors that are associated with bullying and leaders need to know what these are. A worker who is transforming into a bully will begin to engage in the behaviors listed below testing to see if the organization and leadership will hold them accountable.

Leaders should ask the following: Does the worker engage in some or all of these behaviors listed below? Who are these behaviors directed towards? How frequently are these behaviors occurring in the workplace?
  • Interrupts in meetings
  • Tattles to the boss or co-workers
  • Defensiveness –defending behavior of other workers that are clearly inept, but these workers support the potential aggressor
  • Lie about relevant and irrelevant issues
  • Gossips regularly including making up blatant lies about others
  • Talk over people in meetings or in other interactions
  • Bring up issues or concerns that that have been dealt with and/or are irrelevant to the current situation at hand
  • Respond inappropriate to others including but not limited too—tone of voice, non-verbal behaviors, such as rolling eyes or raising eyebrows, talks down to others, and their overall behavior in meetings and interactions with others is not suitable
  • Lack the ability to accept any feedback from others
  • Lack the ability to accept any responsibility for their own actions and has a tendency to blame others
  • Muddy the waters with irrelevant information in an effort to confuse and take the focus away from real issues including themselves
  • Prod other workers in an attempt to gain a reaction
  • Always blow their own horn in order to show how great they are and to specify their own expertise
  • Demand that their own decisions should be followed, and their actions are superior
Leaders who can answer yes to some or all of these are at risk for having a bullying on their hands. Leaders should immediately hold that worker or workers accountable and ensure that bad professional behavior does not continue. A worker who is not held accountable will continue to behave unprofessionally and these bad behaviors will increase in occurrence and frequency. It is, therefore, vital to be proactive and address these immediately to prevent the workplace from becoming one where bullies flourish and a bully culture emerges.