Bullying and Workplace Motivation

An office bully can drain her coworkers’ enthusiasm for their jobs.
i Christopher Robbins/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Playground bullies sometimes grow up to be workplace monsters. Thirty-five percent of U.S. workers say they have been the target of bullying, and 66 percent of those victims ended up quitting or losing their jobs because of the harassment, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute. Bullying and workplace motivation often are intertwined. Someone who uses intimidation on the job often is motivated by her own personal insecurities. In turn, her crusade to destroy her victims can zap a team's drive to achieve.


    An office brute torments his subordinates and coworkers for a variety of reasons. Power is a leading motivator. Many workplace bullies are supervisors or managers who use their authority to taunt their victims by yelling, criticizing or humiliating them in front of their peers. The intimidator can be provoked by his inability to handle job pressures, so he uses his coworkers as outlets for his frustrations by belittling them or setting unrealistic expectations. Sometimes, the tormentor feels threatened by a more competent colleague, and he harasses that associate to keep her from getting ahead.


    A victim of a workplace bully may not feel motivated to defend herself because she doesn't realize she's become a target of inappropriate behaviors. The offenses may be subtle, such as being excluded from office communications or luncheons. She may not be aware that a colleague is ridiculing her behind her back. The aggressor might go into tirades in front of the target behind closed doors. In some cases, a victim may be fully aware that she is being browbeaten but might second guess her own performance and wonder if she's responsible, especially if she is new to her job. Sometimes, an office casualty is unmotivated to speak up because she doesn't believe her company will support her.


    Your work environment can set the tone for a hostile atmosphere that opens the door for repeated acts of aggression. A bully can feed off a company culture that allows ongoing profanity and insults among employees, according to OvercomeBullying.org. Intimidators also can find motivation to pick on others when they see other employees consistently working long hours without breaks or tolerating rudeness from customers. An organization's leaders may excuse a high-performing manager's obnoxious behaviors if they think his tactics contribute to his success.


    A victim’s motivation plummets at work when she is on the receiving end of a bully’s mistreatment. The stress can result in depression, sleeplessness, and chronic headaches or stomach troubles. A target of bullying experiences less job satisfaction and higher absenteeism when her resentment and isolation escalate. Overall morale takes a nosedive when coworkers watch and anticipate a bully’s next steps. Over time, an organization’s bottom line is impacted when employees decide to take their talents elsewhere to escape an office tyrant.

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