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Pierce ‘bully myths’

Common misconceptions about goons on the job

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

Everything you know about office bullies is wrong. Well, most of it.

Recent research shows the assumptions we make about bullies can lead us astray. For example, there’s a common belief that bullies are insecure and lack self-esteem. In fact, they’re often popular and have an inflated sense of self.

Here are other myths about bullies:

They pick on misfits. Actually, bullies decide whom to torment based on mousy personalities, not on appearance or speech impediments, for example. So, if you’re overly fretful, friendless or spineless, you’ll become a bully magnet. But if you’re assertive, you’ll protect yourself.

They’re male. Just as researchers who study schoolyard bullying have found that girls pick fights as well as boys, the same goes on the job.

Gender does influence the type of bullying, though. While men intimidate by yelling, violating space or threatening violence, women practice what psychologists call “relational” bullying: spreading nasty gossip, back-stabbing or excluding others.

They’re oblivious to bystanders. You might think bullies could care less what onlookers think. Not true. Many bullies “play to the crowd.” They may even view their aggression as a kind of performance. When bystanders speak up against bullying and ostracize serial troublemakers, confrontation tends to decline.

Their worst behavior is provoked. Most bullies lash out because they have a compulsion to control others. Even the most seemingly pleasant, diplomatic individuals can attract a bully’s wrath.

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