Is Your Boss “Tough” or a Workplace Bully?

The Wall Street Journal reported that the anti-workplace bullying legislation that slid through the NY Senate this month met with complaints that it’s too subjective to define.  The same argument that was used against Sexual Harassment and Domestic Violence . 

The bill states that verbal abuse includes derogatory remarks. “Who hasn’t worked in a workplace where there aren’t derogatory remarks?” said Jim Copland, the director of the Center for Legal Policy at the right-leaning Manhattan Institute. “Big corporate law firms, trading floors, these are exceptionally abusive work environments,” he said. “People are yelling, people are cursing, this is what happens.”

R.M. Schneiderman. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: May 15, 2010. pg. A.19

Here’s a little help.  HR Magazine published a survey with Human Resource practioners that makes the distinction between Tough Managers and flat out Bullies [take a poll to tell us about your boss after the jump]:

Actions of a Workplace Bully

Participants noted that workplace bullies could be identified by the following characteristics:

* Frequent misuse of power and authority.

* Focus on personal self-interest, as opposed to the good of the organization.

* Prone to emotional outbursts.

* Often inconsistent and unfair in their treatment of employees.

They observed that bullies consistently engage in actions at work that are perceived as overwhelmingly negative. These include a need for control, exploitation, intimidation, threats, humiliation and embarrassment, a failure to communicate, manipulation, engaging in a pattern of obstructive behavior over time, ostracizing and ignoring employees, and gossiping or spreading rumors about their targets. The manager who engages in these negative acts appears to be operating with intent to cause his or her target some kind of pain or personal distress.

Actions of a Tough Boss

On the other hand, participants describe tough bosses differently, suggesting characteristics almost directly opposite those they attribute to bullies:

* Objective, fair and professional.

* Self-controlled and unemotional.

* Performance-focused-insistent upon meeting high standards and holding employees accountable for meeting those expectations.

* Organizationally oriented-consistently operating to achieve the best interests of their company.

The actions of a tough boss were perceived to be overwhelmingly positive. These managers were interactive, using frequent twoway communication and really listening to their employees, as well as mentoring subordinates through coaching, counseling and frequent performance feedback.

While conflict certainly does occur in workgroups led by tough bosses, such bosses work to quickly resolve problems by engaging in honest and respectful discussions. In addition, though tough bosses’ intense focus on results may create tension and stress, employees do not take the situations personally nor do they experience diminished feelings of self-worth or adverse personal or health effects. Instead, they view such managers as “tough but fair” and keenly focused on the good of the organization.

–    TOUGH BOSS or WORKPLACE BULLY? Teresa A Daniel. HRMagazine. Alexandria: Jun 2009. Vol. 54, Iss. 6; pg. 82, 4 pgs

1 thought on “Is Your Boss “Tough” or a Workplace Bully?

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