Post Academic


Bully Alert! How to Tell If You Are Working With a Bully

post academicOne of a bully’s best tricks is to make the victim blame herself. You may get confused as to what is your fault and what is the bully’s. Eventually, you will need to step back from the situation to determine whether or not your boss or a colleague is a bully.

This can be harder in academia because academics aren’t known for having the greatest social skills in the world. But a “creative temperament” is no excuse for acting like an idiot and treating people badly. Yes, creatives are emotional, but part of getting through life is learning how to interact with and compromise with others. If a person with a “creative temperament” also has an anger management problem, he shouldn’t be in charge of anyone, no matter how talented he is.

These cues can help you tell the difference between a bully or a creatively inclined person who is having a trouble managing others:

A bully always has a target. David Yamada of Minding the Workplace says, “In my judgment, the main line in the sand is whether the behavior becomes targeted and malicious. Once it reaches that level, questions of bad social skills, standard-brand incivility, etc., dissolve and what you’re left with is a form of abusive treatment.”

More after the jump! Caricature of Boss Tweed by Thomas Nast from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

A bully never, ever blames herself. Ever. They are masters of blame-the-victim strategy. They’ll say you’re too sensitive. They’ll say you’re emotional. They’ll say you’re seeing things. You’re not.

A bully is incapable of empathy. If you try to explain why something a bully said hurt you, the bully will give you a puzzled expression. A bully is so in touch with her own feelings that the feelings of others simply do not matter.

Why can’t you just fight the bully, you ask? Sometimes a bully gets things done, which looks good for the bottom line. For that reason, HR or your university administrators might look the other way. It’s sad. Until there are laws on the books, you’re going to have trouble, but you can take charge of the situation–which will likely involve finding another job. See our previous post on bullies and how to escape with your sanity intact.

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One Response to 'Bully Alert! How to Tell If You Are Working With a Bully'

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  1. Karen said,

    “you can take charge of the situation–which will likely involve finding another job.”

    This truly is the only remedy. Don’t waste years trying to make the situation better – it almost certainly won’t happen. Don’t expect HR or your ombudsman to make any difference. They are there to benefit the institution, not you. Move on with your life and career and save your self respect and reputation.

    And as said above – Don’t blame yourself.


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