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Why bullies succeed on the job

U. BUFFALO (US) — Social skills may explain why bullies often achieve high levels of career success.

They use those skills to strategically abuse their coworkers, yet still receive positive evaluations from their supervisors, according to a recent study that is one of the first attempts to measure the relationship between being a bully and job performance.

It offers an initial explanation of why bullies thrive in the workplace despite organizational attempts to sanction bullying behaviors.

“Many bullies can be seen as charming and friendly, but they are highly destructive and can manipulate others into providing them with the resources they need to get ahead,” says the study’s co-author, Darren Treadway, associate professor of organization and human resources at the University at Buffalo School of Management.

Workplace bullying is pervasive. The study, published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology, indicates that as many as half of all employees in the US have witnessed bullying at work, and 35 percent have been the target of bullying.

The researchers collected behavioral and job performance data over two time periods from 54 employees at a mental health organization in the northwest US to capture the individual differences and social perception of bullies in the workplace. Regression analyses were conducted on this sample size, consistent with previous studies.

The results showed a strong correlation between bullying, social competence, and positive job evaluations.

Treadway says the findings are relevant beyond the health services industry and that companies should limit bullying behavior while rewarding high-performing employees.

“Employers can work to reduce the prevalence by finding organizationally appropriate ways for employees to achieve their goals, by incorporating measures of civility and camaraderie into performance evaluations, and by helping staff to develop the skills needed to manage bullies,” says Treadway.

Future research, he says, should focus on how bullies select their victims.

Collaborators include researchers from the Technical University of Munich School of Management, Germany; Youngstown State University; and Renmin University of China.

Source: University at Buffalo

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16 Comments

  1. jon

    This is true my boss at IBM selected people who were chronically ill. Today she is still there and promoted to VP ranks.

  2. Chris byron

    At the end of the day, you’ll go home and still be a d***

  3. Bob

    Our entire economy is built upon the idea that exploitation equals profit.

    Is it any wonder which traits and behaviors get rewarded more?

  4. Bob

    Don’t overlook the fact that bullies also promote their victims into positions of power, in order to have power over the person in charge.

    Just look at Gen. Michael Hayden. That Mr. Magoo was never a bully, yet he led the NSA and the CIA. Some bully(s) wanted him there so they could push him around.

    Sort of like the term “useful idiot”, I suppose.

    Either way, shit always floats. Straight to the top.

  5. J

    How was “bully” defined? It doesn’t seem like the typical big, mean, muscular bully was used here.

  6. Zepo

    I’m not a bully, though I always succeed at everything. I find that a good measure of sabotaging “friends” and hard work is a sure method of success.

  7. Christine Funt

    I’m very interested in tips to give employees to help them deal with bullies because workplaces don’t protect employees who are bullied and it is so overwhelming and unproductive to be bullied. Since workplaces don’t give support and take a stand for bullies in many cases, how can an employee deal with the situation?

  8. jeh

    I’ve come to believe that corporate executives are really “evil,” but “bully” describes them too. They despise their employees, customers, and the world as a whole. So they outsource jobs, create bankruptcies to cover up that they’ve pillaged retirement funds (and that dumps the responsibility on the government) and demand big pay for short term profits. Then they dodge taxes while complaining they pay too much taxes – like GE who filed a 57,000 page tax return, made billions in profits and paid not a penny of taxes to the US.

  9. Brian

    Are we talking about bullying here, or are we really talking about employee assertiveness? A “bully” in the classic schoolyard sense, who terrorizes through raw violence, doesn’t last very long in any functional workplace (though I’ve had the misfortune to work for a couple). More common is the subtle domineering type, who controls through manipulation, charm and force of personality. These types succeed because they can be effective leaders, though they can be sociopaths all the same. The question is, does a workplace allow employees to push back against such people when their goals are counter to both subordinates and the business as a whole?

  10. Denis

    One tried to Bully my wife, he was the only” man” in that office, and he was yelling at those poor girls, everyday, calling them names and mentally attacking them. One day my wife called me crying from work… We had a small “talk” … He is not bothering noboy in the office… And we opened a case on his Ass…

  11. Chris

    What I’m seeing is the subtle elimination of avenues for employees to bring up problems they are having with their managers. In an organization I worked at, managers succeeded, not because they were effective, but because the culture from top down through layers of management supported only actions against the lowest ranks; manager ineffectiveness was never acknowledged or addressed — all managers protected each other. Employees were penalized for speaking up or suggesting improvements — they were found to be troublemakers and eventually dismissed. When I talked with HR about a misrepresentation by my manager (and I had documented proof), I was told that HR had to support what my manager said and my account of the situation was dismissed. I consider this bullying and worse but I see it happening more often.

  12. Linda Pretty

    My company, a grocery chain, floats everyone around to many different stores. (We work very hard at grocery stores by the way because profitability relies on safety and retaining customers not so much on individual sales ) but, my point is HR became my best friend when a manager was trying to make me quit or step down from my position. I LOVE HR.

  13. Tony

    Office bullying is just one aspect of it. We have all sort of things going on in corporate world and businesses. Office politics and dirty tricks equal bullying. Also lack of integrity is increasing every day and people with Dunning-Kruger syndrome are in power not just in businesses but also in politics and all over the place.

  14. Workplace Bullying

    Women are more frequently bullied than men. In fact, a survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 62 percent of bullies were men and 58 percent of targets were women. The survey also revealed that the majority (68 percent) of bullying is same-gender harassment and that women bullies target women 80 percent of the time.

  15. 6Ufx6RkS

    336614 526419Can I basically say exactly what a relief to get someone who in fact knows what theyre dealing with on the internet. You in fact know how to bring a difficulty to light and make it critical. The diet ought to see this and fully grasp this side on the story. I cant believe youre not far more common because you undoubtedly hold the gift. 829599

  16. Anne

    I was bullied by my male manager, who had a Napolean complex. He sexually harassed and bullied me for 5 years. This was an orthopedic group. After I went to human resource, the CEO along with a physisian and it was all over for me. They pit other managers against me. Accused me of Falsifing HIPPA documents , would not let me have a day off in 9 mos. etc. I went to human rights and what a joke that was. I’m sure that big co. Paid them off because with all the documentation and witness to boot , I still lost. mo witness was ever called. This company was vying for the top 500 co. In Ny. Sexual harassment still exists, with both men and women. I quit. Had a nervous breakdown, and am blackballed from my profession . Could not get unemployment. Ten months later, still unemployed.

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