National No Name-Calling Month: Guest Blog: Bullies at Work

January 21, 2013

Bullies At Work

By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. ©  2008 High Conflict Institute

Workplace bullying is a growing international problem. It is more than a one-time incident. It is a pattern of behavior between a bully and another worker which can demoralize, isolate and trigger illness in the target of the bully. What is bullying? Who does it? Is it increasing? What can you do to protect yourself? And what can employers do to promote a safe environment for employees? This short article attempts to answer some of these key questions. My perspective is that of a therapist, mediator, and attorney handling “high conflict” disputes in a variety of settings.

What is Workplace Bullying?

In many ways, it is similar to playground bullying; except that as adults it should no longer be an issue. It is aggressive behavior that should be personally contained, but for some reason is not. Bullying involves more than one incident of aggressive negative behavior. It is a repeated pattern of negative behavior that usually involves a bully with more power or the convincing appearance of more power. Bullying can include acts that are intimidating, humiliating, and isolating and can be verbal or physical, blatant or subtle, active or passive. (Lutgen-Sandvik, 2006.)

The underlying message is that the bully can and will keep engaging in unwanted, negative behavior which you are powerless to stop.This sense of powerlessness grows and the target begins to feel bad about himself or herself, as well as frightened of the bully. Bullying appears to go on in an environment that tolerates or rewards hostile behavior without intervening.  The effect on the “target” of bullying can be devastating, and there is substantial research which shows that targets can experience a wide range of related illnesses, from depression and loss of sleep to intestinal disorders and increased risk of heart disease. Productivity drops, teamwork suffers, good employees leave, and employers have increased medical and legal claims. (Yamada, 2008.) Research even shows that workplace bullying has a more negative effect on employees than sexual harassment, perhaps because there are more procedures in place for dealing with sexual harassment nowadays. (Bryner, 2008)


Who Are the Bullies at Work?

From my experience and interdisciplinary training, I strongly believe that bullies at work are High Conflict People (“HCPs”) with high conflict personalities.  By this I mean that they bring this behavior with them, rather than that they are reacting to an external “issue” or that other people “make” them behave this way. I believe that bullying… click here to read the full article.


About Bill Eddy
Bill Eddy, L.C.S.W., J.D. is a family law attorney, therapist and mediator, with over thirty years’ experience working with children and families. He is the Senior Family Mediator at the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego, California. He is also the President of the High Conflict Institute, which provides speakers, trainers and consultants on the subject of managing high-conflict people in legal disputes, workplace disputes, healthcare and education. He has taught Negotiation and Mediation at the University of San Diego School of Law and he teaches Psychology of Conflict at the Strauss Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law. He is the author of several books, including:

Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder

BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Email and Social Media Meltdowns

It’s All Your Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything

For more information about Bill Eddy, please visit:


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