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

Lack of Intervention Harms the Workplace Bully

Original Publication Date: January 26, 2017; Edited and Republished on April 4 , 2022

Many administrators and leaders are aware of the concept of workplace bullying but have no idea how to intervene effectively. Some leaders choose to ignore allegations of workplace bullying and refuse to intervene hoping it just goes away. Others try to intervene using conflict resolution techniques.  Some leaders let workers try to resolve workplace bullying on their own. Unfortunately, none of these interventions are effective. These types of interventions can increase workplace bullying and ultimately hurt all workers, even the bully.

Administrators who do not hold aggressors accountable are not only making the environment worse, but they may be damaging the aggressor more than they realize. First and foremost, bullies, especially those where complaints have been made, are very often disliked, and shunned by their colleagues. They may develop work relationships, but many of these are based out of fear and not on authenticity. Even for a workplace aggressor, this is hurtful and only increases the likelihood that a bully will lash out and the work culture will deteriorate even more.

It is the responsibility of leadership to review job performance and give suggestions to make professionals better. Supervisors who do not offer constructive feedback and stop the workplace bully only encourage bad behavior. Lack of intervention shows the aggressor that bullying is more rewarding than following professional standards. This almost guarantees that the bully will continue to engage in unprofessional behavior. This ensures that bullies stagnate in their ability to improve their skills and grow professionally. Aggressors may do OK in their current work environment but their options for other employment may be limited based on their inability to rise to a higher standard of professionalism and improve their work skills. They have learned how to rely on bad behavior to get ahead rather than developing the skills that many agencies desire for their workers. 

Aggressors become vulnerable when there are changes in leadership. Because workplace bullies have not developed positive professional behaviors, they will depend on their aggression to move forward. New leadership may hold the aggressor accountable to standards of professional behavior which the bully may not be able to do. As such, aggressors may experience sanctions at work or even lose their job as a result. Again, because they have relied so heavily on using fear and abuse at work to get ahead, aggressors may find new employment difficult to secure.

It is always in the best interest of the organization and leadership to take workplace bulling seriously and hold the workplace bully accountable. If they do not, everyone in the organization suffers, even the workplace bully.