Are you a bully?

18 May 2018
Author: Andrea Twaddle

Victim blaming plays a significant role in the under-reporting of much unacceptable behaviour, from sexual assaults, to bullying. With Pink Shirt day focusing on taking a stand against bullying, there is a risk that a focus on the victim means we don’t look at the bully, their behaviour, and how we can identify and change it.

There are some simple questions that can help shape an individual’s thoughts around bullying, so that they become more aware and reflect on their behaviour, and of the behaviour of those around them. They are a helpful tool to help people think about their actions in the workplace.

  • Do you know what bullying is?

    Bullying is about unreasonable behaviours that are repeated and carried out with a desire to exert power/dominance, and an intention to cause fear or distress.

    If you know what bullying is, would you recognise it in your own behaviour? The following questions can help you identify whether your behaviour needs to change.

  • What makes you happy?

    Do you put others down, in order to improve your own standing? Do you find people’s failures amusing? Do you enjoy watching others make a mistake? Do you use humour or ‘jokes’ to put down others?

    A lack of empathy, emotional intelligence. and being less inclined to support others or ignoring the feelings of others, can lead to bullying.

  • Do you listen?

    When others are talking, do you take in what they’re saying? Do show empathy?

    Caring about others, and how your actions might affect them matters.

  • How do you use power? What’s your reputation at work?

  • Is your reputation that you are hard, or tough? Are you known to be fair? Are you known as being competent? What do you want your reputation to be?

    If your reputation is centred on the use of your position or power, i.e. people do what you say only because of your position, or out of a fear of reprisal, this isn’t a constructive way to manage staff, and may reflect behaviours indicative of bullying.

  • How do you interact with others?

    Do people trust you? Do you resolve conflict or get your way by manipulating or threatening others, or using a position of power? Do you act out (losing your temper or lashing out at others when you are frustrated)? Do you label others? Do you treat others differently if a supervisor is present?

    Bullies are less minded to consider the consequences of actions on others, or their feelings.

    If you identify with these types of behaviours, then it’s wise to get help to change your behaviour, so that you develop more constructive ways to conduct yourself and interact in the workplace. You then should work on re-establishing more positive workplace relationships. Making amends requires sustained, consistent effort to regain trust and respect that will have been lost. This process will require recognising and taking responsibility for your actions; ongoing feedback about your behaviour; and help. If there is an underlying cause for how you established bullying behaviour, then professional help can help you to understand this, and how to disengage from this type of behaviour in the future.

    Like any learned behaviour, a person who identifies bullying behaviour can change their ways. However, like any problem, admitting there is a problem is the first step in an ongoing process of redress. Given how damaging bullying can be, it’s worth making the effort.

  • PrintBack
    Are you a bully?
    About the Author
    Andrea Twaddle
    Andrea is an experienced specialist employment lawyer and Director at DTI Lawyers. She advises on contentious and non-contentious employment law issues, including privacy, and health and safety matters. Andrea is AWI-CH qualified, and undertakes complex workplace investigations. She is a member of the national Law Society Employment Law Reform Committee, a former Council Member at the WBOP District Branch of the Law Society, and Coordinator of the WBOP Employment Law Committee. Andrea is a sought-after commentator and speaker on employment law issues at client and industry seminars. She provides specialist, strategic advice to other lawyers, professional advisors and leadership teams. You can contact Andrea at