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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Career: Are You a Bully at Work?

When clients come to see me about work stressors, one of the most common complaints I hear is that they work in stressful and negative work environments with bullying managers. In addition to hearing about bullying managers, I also see clients who are in managerial positions who feel frustrated with employees. There's no doubt that managers often have to deal with difficult employees. However, very often, these same managers have no insight into how their negative style of management and communication affects their dynamic with employees.


A Bullying Manager
A Bullying Management Style Creates a Negative Work Environment
One of the biggest mistakes managers make with employees is having dictatorial or bullying style of management. Managers who are bullies usually think the only way they can get their employees to work is through intimidation. They create a negative work environment by treating their employees like they're children. Often, they have no awareness or insight that this is what they're doing until we begin discussing in their therapy sessions why their employees seem unmotivated and less effective than employees in other units.

Bullying Often Results From Emotional Security 
More often than not, their own emotional insecurity is what drives their bullying style of management. They don't feel confident that they can get the best from their employees unless they use their position of authority to try to infantilize their workers. Without a doubt, this creates resentment, which leads to a demoralized and unmotivated staff. Not only is it counterproductive with regard to what the manager is trying to accomplish, at times, in the worst case scenarios, it can lead to lawsuits for the manager and the company in the more egregious cases. It's usually a lose-lose situation.

Bullying is an Ineffective Management Style
In the short term, a bullying or negative manager might be able to intimidate employees to do what he or she wants, especially during this protracted recession where there's a shortage of jobs. But, in the long term, bullying and intimidating employees is not an effective way of creating a productive and positive work environment. And, even for the most hard boiled manager, who might not care if the work environment is positive or not, it's usually not effective with regard to advancing his or her own career with senior management if the manager perceived as someone who bullies employees.

So, if this negative and punitive style of management tends to be ineffective in the long run, why do certain managers persist in doing it? Well, there are so many reasons that one blog post is insufficent. But one reason, as I mentioned previously, is that this style usually comes from a deep sense of personal inadequacy. The bullying manager tries to cover up his or her emotional insecurities by trying to intimidate subordinates.

Bullying and "Divide and Conquer" Tactics
Another reason is that, rather than taking the long view with regard to creating a positive work environment, which requires more of an effort as compared to barking out orders to employees, the bullying manager is short sighted. His or her goals are short term. Rather than focusing on team building, the bullying manager will often engage in "divide and conquer" tactics among employees. These managers often have deep seated fears that creating a team approach would lead to a "mutiny" against him or her.

The Bullying Boss as "Lord of the Manor"
Lack of the appropriate skill set and inexperience are also contributing factors that contribute to a bullying style of management. Often, the inexperienced or unskilled manager feels that the only thing he or she has to rely on is the managerial title. He or she behaves like the "lord of the manor" engaging in a feudal style of management. Too often, senior management doesn't invest the time, money or effort involved with training these managers. As a result, a bullying manager often relies on the only thing he or she knows when it comes to authority relationships--the parent-child relationship. Of course, this leads to resentment. In the worst case scenarios, it leads to sabotage, both overt and covert.

Bullying Managers and Personality Disorders
Bullying managers often have personality disorders where they come across as inconsistent, verbally provocative, unable to manage their anger, engaging in black and white thinking and, in the worst cases, being emotionally unstable. When a personality disorder, like borderline personality or narcissistic personality, is involved, this is a much more serious problem. A manager who lacks expertise in managing employees, theoretically, can go for training. But a manager who has a personality disorder needs professional psychological help. In companies where there are numerous complaints about a bullying manager, senior management will often mandate this manager to seek professional help or risk losing his or her job.

Getting Help
If you have a bullying style of management and training has not been effective in helping you to change, you could benefit from seeking help from a licensed mental health professional. If you're motivated to do the personal work required to change, you can work through the underlying issues that contribute to an ineffective, bullying style of management.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR therapist, and Somatic Experiencing therapist. I work with individuals and couples.


To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist


To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.

Photo Credit:  Photo Pin

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