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Using a variety of methods bullies are motivated by a strong need to control their targets.  They can coerce unsuspecting others into their web of deceit damaging a target’s previously unblemished reputation.  Similar to domestic violence, bullies hold a position of influence and control and work hard to isolate their target.

Bullies can be hard to recognize because of their strong relationships and business results.  They “manage up” well, and their results can be attributed to the fear based environment they create and carefully conceal.  They are threatened by high performers and have a strong need to control their surroundings and while projecting a false persona.

The difference between a bully and a poor leader is their motivation and awareness level; poor leaders may have development needs and lack insight into the impact of their behaviors.  Bullies are very calculated and specific – intentionally planning outcomes they know will be harmful to individuals and the organization.


Unlike school yard targets, workplace victims are not “obviously vulnerable” and can be highly functioning employees with a strong history of success.  Targets are not selected because of what they do, but because of who they are.  They may have never experienced career challenges and are caught off guard; unable to recognize the signs and navigate the toxic situation.  They begin to suffer harmful emotional and physical consequences before they recognize what’s happening.   Organizations also feel the pain!   Signs include engagement erosion, regrettable turnover, increased absenteeism, a tarnished reputation and declining business performance.

In a 2012 Study by the Workplace Bullying Institute on Target Strategy Effectiveness, the outcome for targets was dismal compared to actions taken against the perpetrators.


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Outcome for Perpetrators


In a national 2007 U.S. study, the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 78% of bullied targets did not formally report their abuse though they may have informally complained.  The same study indicates when situations were formally reported, organizations failed to respond (44%) or the situation worsened based on the company’s actions (18%).


In 2004, Quebec enacted the first North American statutory law against psychological harassment (bullying) at work.  Saskatchewan added an anti-bullying provision to it’s Occupational Health and Safety Code in 2007.  A 2008 revision to Canada’s Labour Code mandated anti-bullying policies and education within all federal ministries and Ontario’s Bill 168 included anti workplace harassment and workplace violence protection in 2010.


Open Door Programs fail because bullies are often skilled at managing up and covertly garner support of Human Resources, Peers, and Senior Management eroding the effectiveness of organizational support systems.  Targets are left with few alternatives and little hope.

Failing to adequately identify, respond to, and eliminate Workplace Bullying has far reaching and harmful consequences that are physical, mental, social, and economic in nature.  Organizations committed to enhancing employee engagement (and customer retention) must develop a holistic approach to eradicate workplace bullying.  A comprehensive program should:

  • regularly monitor the company climate to identify potential abuse
  • encourage safe reporting of incidents supported by neutral and impartial investigations
  • include protection for targets
  • define consequences for perpetrators
  • be enveloped within a leadership culture that embraces a zero tolerance policy


Contact Brian Martin, an experienced advocate for targets and enthusiastic champion committed to eliminating workplace bullying.  He is available for:

  • one on one coaching (targets or perpetrators)
  • workplace consulting (helping organizations develop comprehensive prevention and response programs)
  • speaking engagements (educating human resources and business leaders)

Made to Measure is an affiliate of the Workplace Bullying Institute founded by Dr. Gary and Dr. Ruth Namie in Washington State, U.S.A. 

Learn more about their pioneering work.

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