Bullies Are As Common In The Cubicle As The Classroom

Much has been made of kids who get bullied recently — Billy Wolfe, in fact, was on the Today show this morning — but the truth is, many of us face bullies as adults: At work. On a BusinessWeek blog, Cathy Arnst writes about an editor she once had: "Whenever I made a mistake—and in the beginning I made many, many mistakes—he would stand over me in the open newsroom and scream at me, impugning my intelligence and professional skills in language I've rarely heard since. I had nightmares about those tirades for years afterwards. Needless to say, I never made the same mistake twice." According to a New York Times piece by Tara Parker-Pope yesterday, 37% of American workers have experienced bullying on the job.

Researchers at SUNY New Paltz have developed a survey to help identify the full range of behaviors that can constitute bullying. Notes Parker-Pope: "Some of the behaviors — glaring, failing to return calls, not praising a worker — may seem trivial, but they take a toll when repeated over and over again." And in some ways, can a cubicle bully be worse than a childhood bully? You're an adult! You shouldn't have to put up with this! But you need the job. I wouldn't say I'd ever been bullied, although I did once work with a loud, gruff superior who often left people in tears. But that was before I checked the list supplied by the New York Times and SUNY New Paltz. Thinking of past jobs, I realized some of the "behaviors" were quite familiar! Have you regularly:

  • Been glared at in a hostile manner? Yes, and sometimes I glared first.
  • Been excluded from work-related social gatherings? Yes, thank God.
  • Not been given the praise for which you felt entitled? Obviously.
  • Had your contributions ignored by others? Yes, although sometimes instead of "ignoring" it was more like "laughing."
  • Been lied to? Of course! This is America!
In any case, this is not to belittle bullying. The point is more that being thrown into a pressure-cooker situation with strangers when there's money and recognition on the line makes the workplace thrive on bullying behavior. Who among us has not experienced some kind of cube heckler?

The Bully Next Door [BusinessWeek]
When the Bully Sits in the Next Cubicle, Have You Been Bullied at Work? [NY Times]

Earlier: What Separates The Bullies From The Bullied?