When Good Things Happen To Bad People: Disturbing News About Workplace Bullies

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As if life isn’t unfair enough for the alarming number of people who are bullied at work—or otherwise adversely affected by such behavior—recent research suggests that a lot of workplace bullies achieve high levels of career success. In fact, their bullying and on-the-job achievements might just be related.That’s according to a new study (“Political Skill and the Job Performance of Bullies”) in the most recent issue of the Journal of Managerial Psychology, the first attempt to examine the correlation between bullying and job performance. It’s an important next step in understanding what appears to be a growing problem—or at least one that’s being discussed more often and openly—not least because it provides a new framework for understanding a significant aspect of the bullying dynamic.

It might be a little counter-intuitive to imagine workplace bullies earning positive performance reviews, if only because we think of (and tend to characterize) bullies as cruel and angry individuals who target weaker colleagues. But while the latter notion is undoubtedly accurate, and the former quite often so, it’s also true that for a bully to carry on for any length of time her or she must hold onto a job. To be sure, some bullies survive and thrive because their employers and/or managers aren’t focused enough on the problem (more than half of U.S. workplaces don’t even have an official bullying policy). But many if not most are allowed to keep abusing colleagues because their bosses aren’t aware of their behavior, either because it goes unreported (many victims are too frightened or embarrassed to draw attention to their plight) or because the bullies are good at masking their behavior and/or fooling their superiors.

That’s the focus of the JMP study, which was led by Darren C. Treadway of SUNY-Buffalo and Brooke A. Shaughnessy of the Technical University of Munich in Germany. The research  team analyzed dozens employees at a mental health organization—collecting data on behavior and job performance over two separate time periods—to capture the individual differences and social perception of bullies. They  were especially interested in looking at bullying through the academic lens of “social information processing,” which is basically the study of group knowledge and can include everything from wikis to reputation.

(MORE: Who Is Happiest At Work? Probably Not Who You Think)

The bottom line? A lot of bullies are keen analyzers and manipulators of social dynamics and reputations; they are highly political animals, with finely tuned antennae that allow them to identify and abuse their victims without anyone else noticing. “Due to their social competence,” the authors write, “[bullies] are able to strategically abuse coworkers and yet be evaluated positively by their supervisor.”

More galling, though, is the revelation that a significant portion of these politically “gifted” workplace thugs exercise their malevolent skills for fun and profit—that is, for their own career advancement: “Many bullies are very socially skilled,” the authors write, “and use their bullying behavior strategically to coerce others into providing them the resources needed to achieve their work-related objectives.”

It’s an especially insidious cycle: The results of workplace intimidation, harassment, and other forms of bullying are often enough jobs well done, which lead not to rebuke but rather to strong reviews, pay raises, and even promotions. “Bullies often leverage the fear and intimidation of their behavior to achieve their personal goals and improve their job performance,” the authors reiterate.

(MORESticks And Stones:” Does Facebook and Twitter Give Bullying More Power?)

 

Any of those outcomes, of course, only serve to embolden the bully and imperil the bullied, which is yet another reason for victims to speak out. If they don’t take action—as difficult or scary as it can be—the bully in the next cubicle or work station could soon enough be in charge.

17 comments
Janette
Janette

I'm sure this will go over like a lead ballon, but I've never had someone bully me because I don't let them.

cashmeresweaters
cashmeresweaters

Hi all.

I was at my last job for ten years. My supervisor and I got along fabulously for the first seven years. I'm the kind of person who keeps to herself and never causes problems. Then, a new grad was hired. She started to brown-nose my boss.  And. My boss liked it.This new grad , as soon as there was a vacancy, would sweet-talk boss into hiring her college mates. Within a year, there were three college mates working there! Apparently, I had three people going to boss complaining about me and backing each other up. (good luck being able to defend myself against the masses)  So as a result, my boss would start to nit-pick everything I did, and started writing me up for the most menial  (and I mean menial!) things. Nothing I did was ever right after that. So, in the end, she fired me. And you guessed it, Yet another one of brown-noser's buddies was hired on, literally one hour after I was fired. 

The field I work in is VERY small. There's ALWAYS someone who knows someone else who can make it impossible for me to get a job because of the reputation unfairly given to me. I've seen it happen to other people, resulting in either them having to find a job out of state, or just going into a whole other field. I know that favoritism happens everywhere and all workplaces. I've been affected emotionally and professionally and will be getting out of the field  and starting my own business very soon. If I try to sue for nepotism, this evil trio will have even more ammunition against me!

Dextrosa
Dextrosa

     Hi, I believe that problem of bully comes from ignorance. Yes, ignorance. Isn't it ignorance to think only of ourselves, minding our own business??? And yes, I have had close look up to the bullies. In my childhood I was very small, fragile kid with very unusual interests (science, literature, paintings, biographies... - yes, you guess right, I was small, glassy nerd) Book smart, but with complete lack of being street smart - the lack of social skills. I used to have bunch of "close friends" to wait for me after school for regular beat up, pranks, etc. At the start I tried to tell the teacher... who answered, that I shouldn't tedytail... till I ended with pencil piercing my palm... during class. This happened in second grade. And kept happening till I left school. 9 years of horror. It was not any better at home. I had stepfather... I guess you know the story about Cinderella... yep, that's me! My mom did not care. My grandma did... but how much could she do, right? I was traumatized, I pulled myself from anyone and anything. Hating myself, being anorectic... wonderful, now I was getting that from stranger too :)

Dextrosa
Dextrosa

No one cared. Neighbors, kids in the school, teachers... But I still had a hope. I believed that when I will be done with education and find a job, I will be appreciated for my hard working attitude, intelligence... how funny naive. So I have been bullied at work. And I owe to tell you, since the elementary school, (actually since the preschool - I was the smallest kid out there - you remember? The kids used to push me away and took my toys... the staff in pre K did not care) those all characters were usually intelectual losers, not able to comprehend material of that second grade... and this is common trait for losers. But they know exactly how the street works, so they do not feel bad to steel the thing one worked on, claim credit for job of someone else, grab check from coworkers hand and with some words thought of in advance manipulate the other out, or how to put someone in the most awkward situation, shake confidence down, just to use the moment... Why they can? Because while one is focusing on how to do job the best, those little damagers, and parasites are thinking instead how to steal it...  The boss in the best case doesn't care, doesn't investigate, doesn't listen.

Dextrosa
Dextrosa

(Most likely he is one of them, that's how he got his job.. and that is also coming from my personal experience, that bullies I have known are not capable of work, they however bully and use and abuse people who does their job... gratis). I used to keep trying to prove myself, work even harder... to realize, that hard work in long term usually very is being rewarded very rarely. Once in Fifth Third Bank I became victim of bunch of bullies, who knew each other, and very friends or connected through friends, coworkers, managers. I have been told during my very first minute I entered the bank by my supervisor, that I will be fired (did not even got to my desk yet, did not even had a chance to talk to anyone...(which was repeated daily for no reason), later on I had been called basura during my few first days of work. (Thanks to that I picked from those five bullies kinda nice base of Spanish during first month. To the jaw drop of whole bully clique. First I tried correct step - follow the chain of command - just to get bullied even worse, because of course the manager was friend of my supervisor, and the regional manager was very close with my manager.... Second I contacted a girl working in human resources.

Dextrosa
Dextrosa

She wanted help on the start, but had been "advised" not to. Of course this is what she told me and did not want to do nothing more with that. The last I called hot line # for bullies, that 888#... Don't have to tell you - of course those friends hold together and denied everything. If I was thinking that I was terrorized... after this phone call it took curvature. Oh, and I had been explained, that all that basura calling, and threats of firing, and list goes on,  was jokes... Oh, I don't have sense of humor. But once I had been explained this by the branch manager I laughed :) (sarcasm). Then, I got write up in matter of few days. When I tried to transfer to two other branches - the managers of both branches (independently) got warning not to do so! Even though they wanted to hire me, and this information was given to me privately. (To understanding not to mention it, so they would not get in trouble). The bully got so bad, that my supervisor lost caution and I eventually received written proof about discrimination and abuse, well it disappeared after I pointed it out... I did last foolish attempt to prove that I am being bullied in order have them stop. The answer was threats (that they are gonna fire me sooner or later, one day I will make a mistake and they will be right there, and the way how she talked to me - I do not command even a dog that way this all as response to notifying my branch manager) from regional manager (the friend and long time college of the branch manager) I received second write up for breach of customers information - when I notified my boss about what had been done to me by my coworker while serving that customer, and seen by my supervisor who did not react to that, but openly rewarded the coworker who bullied me :)))) You getting that? (And yes, till now I want to throw up when I see Fifth Third Bank, or when I just think of those people working there). After this one customer asked me, she wanted to start work at the bank and so she wanted to know how is it. I used to serve her a lot, I had kinda relationship built with her and told her honestly, that I like the job, but if she wants to apply, I personally would not recommend her to applying in this branch....

Dextrosa
Dextrosa

My supervisor overheard it, and punished me. I was soooo done, so feeling anger for all that injustice, so obvious... One interesting thing happened before end of my carrier in Fifth Third :) One of the customers who kept asking about another worker, who used to work there some time ago, start talking about previous people, who were swiftly changed. And I did not interrupted. I had a hope to find them and find out what have happened to them. All of us (quickly exchanged) were the same - let's say type - white. Also he mentioned one guy who was supposed to start working as the branch manager, but then surprisingly this one - he pointed to my branch manager - came and this guy was suddenly let go instead. (Well, one can just question what was really behind it, was friendship of the regional and this back then newly promoted branch manager involved?  I will never know ).  After all this, more they bullied me, the more I wanted to revolt. So since that moment, when customer asked me about my job (still I could not became a liar) I told them I can't officially complain so legally I can only say "no comment". I quit, in matter of weak after the threats from the regional manager. As long as I did not want to let bullies win, because they had poisoned my whole childhood, adolescence and young middle age, I just could not continue. They would deny, forgot they see the paper, lie... and cover up...  It was the end for me, I let bullies win once again. I did not have job, but one morning I came to work, and whole that picture of the coworkers... and what they will do, and how I will cry after work like every day... I just walked to the branch manager, gave him key on my palm and batch and told him  "I quit".

Dextrosa
Dextrosa

My later new job was - unbelievable - exact opposite. People I start working back then - are still my friends, we helped each other. That fear to turn back disappeared. I could trust my coworkers. They were just amazing. Nine months after I start working in my new place I find out that branch manager was promoted - leaving his "buddies" unprotected. New branch manager came. All of those five people who work there for years were not there anymore, and the supervisor who bullied me and cover up for his "buddies" bullying me too - was fired. Under mysterious circumstances. Do not know what for exactly, do not know what for officially, but I have my guess... Too late for me. Or maybe just good for me, since I got the best working place I could have wish for! But if there would be will in the first place instead of ignorance this hell place would never existed, or lasted that long.... well with new manager this hell place was melted, right?

Safeport
Safeport

I was bullied as an educator in Springfield , MA. Several employees have left this one school.  Swearing, pointing in peoples faces, paranoia, it is all there. Our union rep even went to the superintendent. It is safe to say that central office knows outright about the workplace bullying. Enough staff have written letters and been represented by union, which does nothing. You are always wondering when they will come for you next. How can we protect children from bullies when a school districtallows a bully to sit in an principal's chair?

DrMichaelCole
DrMichaelCole

It was only through the continued and self sacrificing efforts of Dr Michael Cole that Professor William Tarnow Mordi was stood down from clinical work and prevented from treating and harming any further babies at Westmead Hospital in Sydney Australia. The management at Westmead Hospital tried hard to silence Dr Cole and cover up the problem.


The University of Sydney had made Tarnow Mordi a Professor of Neonatology in about 1999 even though he lacked competence as a Neonatologist. How is it possible, then, that even after Tarnow Mordi was stood down from treating babies, the University of Sydney promoted Tarnow Mordi and made him Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology as well, two further areas in which Tarnow Mordi has no clinical competence?

VZtelcotarget
VZtelcotarget

The shame of it all, one of America's richest corporations who boast of such ethical purity in their code of conduct manual is actually a bully employer who breeds bad management. As in the first comment by JusticeatVerizon who was a good manager and highly recognized for his accomplishments before the cross hairs were focused on him. Due to his failure to comply with this corporations bullying agenda, his stellar career was turned upside down and inside out to the point of loosing everything he worked so hard for. 

I fully understand his story totally, because I too have felt the wrath of the bully management team. I am not talking of a once or twice bullying act, but of a well implemented plan of attack on human rights on anyone who they labeled a "trouble maker".  My experience as a target of corporate bullying has had grave consequences in every aspect of my life. You cannot imagine the hardship this has caused my family until you have experienced the pain and suffering caused by PTSD inflicted on me by my former employer. 

I'm sure all of you have heard the horror stories of our soldiers returning from war suffering from PTSD, but can you imagine reporting to your job and finding a war zone in a work environment that was once a morally correct organization? My life too became a living hell for many years at the hands of multiple bullies. Their human resource dept. was absolutely no help and even failed to follow up on documented acts of human rights violations such as my female manager Mrs. Breen opened the bathroom door on me while I was sitting on the toilet. She did not knock, opened the door and said ooops sorry then left without using the facility. A couple hours later she summoned the union rep into her office and called me, stating she needed to talk to me about spending excessive time in the office. I was an outside fieldtech who became an expert at maintaining the copper network for my entire 32 year career that was shortened directly because of the bathroom incident.

That was the one of the more egregious acts that I endured over approximately 12 years of on and off bullying. One of the other egregious acts was the removal of my bucket truck after back surgery, this is after I had a aerial lift device (cherry picker) for most of my career. I was given a van and told to work off a ladder. I plan on writing a book on the entire saga in the future if I can get past the debilitating triggering effect of my PTSD due to rehashing all the events over the years. I have a title picked out, "Their Coming After You". These were the words of my old style foreman back in the late 90's spoken to me when he learned of their agenda.

I am currently 56 years old and until I was in my early 40's had never heard of workplace bullying.  In the early stages I had no idea what was going on with me, coming home angry everyday, taking it out on my wife and 4 teenage boys. I remember saying to myself this can't be happening. In 2001 the stress literally put me down! It wasn't until 2003 that a workers comp. management employee told me,"it's a shame what they are doing to you outside guys". That comment in itself was my road to understanding the effects of being a target of workplace bullying. 

Many years of research on my part on the subject has lead me to believe that our politicians know exactly what's going on. It is also so confusing to hear our leaders talk of the human rights violations in other countries, sever enough to go to war. Then here in our own backyard it is perfectly legal for an employer to terrorize the lives of their employees. While lobbying our political leaders at the Legislative office building in Albany,New York for support of a current bill to make workplace bullying illegal,  I met a professional counselor who stated the workplace bullying parallels domestic violence. I now know what it feels like to go home to an abusive spouse everyday by going to work everyday to an abusive boss. Yes we have made progress when it comes to other human rights violations and it's time to end the madness of workplace bullying / violence before it breeds more lunatics who want to take revenge on society!

JusticeatVerizon
JusticeatVerizon

Mr. Gary Belsky,

On May 21, 2013 you wrote an article in Time Magazine called: When Good Things Happen To Bad People – Disturbing News About Workplace Bullying.

http://business.time.com/2013/05/21/when-good-things-happen-to-bad-people-disturbing-news-about-workplace-bullies/

Let me tell you as quick as I can about my experience at Verizon. I am a former U.S. Marine and a very successful and productive manager at Verizon.I stood up for employees that were getting bullied by other managers.My life became a living hell and I was eventually targeted, endured numerous racial slurs and comments and was eventually wrongfully terminated.I lost everything for doing the right things.I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams only to be stripped of everything because of the powers and connected bullies at Verizon; (you can read my story in full below).

Verizon response in a position statement when I tried to resolve this conflict was: The investigation yield that Benvie had a reputation of being a bully and an equal opportunity offender.Race was not an issue with Benvie’s condescending and obnoxious behavior and inappropriate comments to almost everyone that he had contact with.McGovern (Verizon EEO Officer) had substantiated complaints from Caucasian technicians concerning Benvie’s offensive management style.”

What Verizon stated was this, as long as Verizon’s managers Bullied everyone equally, it was ok under their policy.

I have spoken alongside of politicians from Washington DC at National Workplace Bullying Conferences to State Capitals all through the Northeast trying to get a law passed to protect us all, and to improve our children’s futures.

Read my full story, look at my speeches, read my Facebook and blogs pages to see thousands of people like you and me all over the world reaching out and talking about their personal heartbreaking stories of Workplace Bullies. I have also been featured in and Huffington Post Article called: “ Verizon: Plenty Of Good Middle Class Jobs But Would You Want To Work There?”

http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2012/09/14/verizon-plenty-of-good-middle-class-jobs-but-would-you-want-to/

So many people lost so much, and I am one of them.Watch the increase of hits to this article after I post it.These are people who need to be heard.

“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Edmund Burke

Neal W. Dias
774-991-3663
Fightingfor7years@hotmail.com
Justicefor7@yahoo.com

My Blog Page:
Blog Address (GOOGLE): Bullying at Verizon – Enough is Enough

Facebook:
• Justice at Verizon
• Enough is Enough – Stop Workplace Bullying

My Story:

http://justiceatverizon.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/bullying-at-verizon/

http://justiceatverizon.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/unjustice-at-verizon-and-the-massachusetts-commission-against-discrimination/

EvelynField
EvelynField

When will employers accept that  bullies are bad for business and that employees who are respected work harder. The first step is to listen to any employee who is feeling threatened. And as there is more bullying in health, welfare, education and a few others... then employer should be more on the alert to deter this evil. Evelyn Field , www.bullying.com.au

rbacal
rbacal

Since companies have shirked some of their responsibilities regarding workplace bullies, more jurisdictions have stepped in by passing anti-bullying laws. That's probably a good thing, but it opens up a lot of challenges. One of the biggest issues for laws, and for companies who want to take action is how to define bullying behavior so it's not just a "question of opinion". 

And moving to an understanding that "bullying" is not a natural necessity. Reminds me a bit of drunk driving, and sexual harrassment, both of which used to be considered "OK". We are making progress.

Robert Bacal

http://work911.com

JWH67
JWH67

Who do you turn to when the bully is the boss and you have a 100% rate of turnover and at least one former employee is on permanent disability because of PTSD? It's a nursing home and the "lady" in question is responsible for the lives of our elderly.  I've tried the state boards.  Unless this "lady" injures a resident, the state couldn't care less.  As long as it's only employees being threatened (to the point where local police have been called by employees afraid for their safety), the state won't do a thing.  The state will do nothing about the threats, abuse, falsified records.  I've been working on this for 7 months, with no luck. For whatever reason, it appears it's all legal.  If that's true, I understand completely why our country is in the shape it is...

DrMichaelCole
DrMichaelCole

@JusticeatVerizon Well done. It is good to name names. Those names again? Verizon the company. Mr McGovern EEO officer. Who else?