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  • Writer's pictureEdwin and George

‘Corporate Hyenas at Work’ – How to Stop Workplace Bullying

The Commonwealth Ombudsman received more than 1600 claims of abuse in the Australian Defence Force over the past four years. This is despite an overhaul of new recruit training. A high proportion of the complaints relate to bullying. (‘Canberra Times:’ July 13th 2020).

You would think that bullying would stop in the school yard; the smears, the sniggers, the snide remarks.

But think again.

The bullies are all grown up now and wearing suits and ties (as well as Defense Force uniforms).

They are also making work a living hell for too many people.

Bullying is stalking the Australian workplace: it is offensive, hurtful and damaging to health. Because it’s psychological it is hard to recognise and hard to fight.

Bullying at work is:

‘Something that is regular and repeated: criticising, ignoring, humiliating, belittling, undermining, over-supervising, over-managing, intimidating or ridiculing a person.’(Clive Boddy: Ted Talk December 2012).

Forbes recently found that one in six workers say they have experienced bullying at work. 70 % of workplace bullies are men – half of these target women and with female bullies, 80% target other women.

In addition, data from Safe Work Australia reveals the number of serious workplace injuries related to bullying has nearly doubled in Australia over the past decade. In 2019, more than 1,800 people were compensated for a workplace injury they sustained from bullying.

Bullying is nothing to do with poor job performance. It can be subtle, intending to undermine the target.

Tactics include:

  • Making unjust criticism on the standard of the target’s work or blaming them for thigs that weren’t their fault

  • Excluding the target from meetings or not making information available that is important to do the job

  • Setting impossible deadlines

  • Excluding the target from social events

  • Isolating the target from the team

  • Ridiculing the target when they ask for help in their job

  • Regularly over-turning decisions the target makes in their day-to-day work for petty reasons.

In their book ‘The Bully at Work’ Gary and Ruth Namie identify four types of workplace bully: (skilled bullies jump across these categories):

a. The Screaming Mimi – prefers a public setting to verbally abuse the target, they are trying to put fear in the mind of the target by showing them up publicly. Co-workers will be worried that they are next and are likely to try and keep on the ‘good side’ of the bully

b. The Constant Critic – gets the target behind closed doors and it becomes a ‘he said, she said’ type conversation about something that has happened. The target is never given a chance and if there is manager or supervisor involved, they will always be believed. Behind closed doors, there is always subsequent deniability.

c. The Two-Headed Snake – passive / aggressive techniques. Generally a back-stabber or rumour monger . If they are a manager or supervisor, they fail to stop this kind of behavior. The tactic is used to damage the reputation of the target. The ‘Two Headed Snake’ is hard to identify because they will also praise the target to their face.

d. The Gatekeeper- withholds resources from the target, grinds them to a halt. Chooses the most opportune time to strike with maximum impact.

Being bullied is a harrowing experience.

Here are some tips for people having to deal with workplace bullying:

1. Never blame yourself as it’s almost certainly not your fault – bullying happens for many reasons – the bully may be insecure or see you as a competitor. Their behavior is a reflection on them not you.

2. Document everything in a journal – keep copies of emails and make a record of phone calls. Write down exactly what happened – keep to the facts, with no exaggerations or views expressed in your journal entry. If the matter goes further, this will be a valuable resource.

3. Tell someone – don’t keep quiet about the issue as this leads to acceptance of the bullying. Speak to a trusted co-worker or HR Manager about what you are going through.

4. Review your company policy – and make sure you follow the documented process.

5. Squad Up – speak to others workers to see if the bullying is happening to them. There is always power in numbers.

6. Confront the bully – talk to the bully, to find out the reasons for their actions. Stick to the facts, ask for feedback. Request that HR are present at the meeting and ask the bully for specific evidence on why this is happening.


‘The only way to deal with bullies is to stand up, step up and to speak up.’ (Jeanne Sullivan: ‘Ted Talk May 2015).

This is not OK and it has to stop.

’Corporate hyenas at Work’ is a book by Susan M. Steinman

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