I don’t believe that bullies are bad people. Honestly, I think that the saying “hurt people, hurt people” is totally true. But that isn’t an excuse for bad behaviour. In this episode I’m exploring bullying and why someone might resort to bullying behaviour in the workplace.

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31. Are you a bully? – Transcript

[00:00:00] Hi, there I’m Bec McFarland the host of the Pop Your Career Podcast. As a career coach, I’m most passionate about helping my clients to discover their own personal flavour of career fulfillment. In this podcast, we are going to be exploring ways that you too can feel more fulfilled by your work. So strap yourself in, get ready for the ride. The tips around here are fast and in abundance.

[00:00:29] Hello. Hello. It is Bec McFarland here helping you do better and be better in your career. And in doing that today we are talking about a little bit of a sensitive topic. The question on my lips today is, are you a bully? Now I already know that most people who are listening to this episode [00:01:00] are going to answer that question with a no.

[00:01:03] In fact, pretty much anyone who is gonna be asked that question are going to say no, because none of us ever want to be associated with an idea like bullying. None of us ever want to think that we are that kind of person, right? But here’s the thing. Bullies are not always bad people. In fact, a lot of the time they’re not.

[00:01:31] I just want you to take a moment to allow that to settle in. I know that some of you are going to be shocked to hear that from me, especially as throughout my life, I have been very severely bullied at different stages. What I can tell you is there was also a period of my life where I was a bully. And I know a lot of other people in my circles who have in fact also experienced a [00:02:00] period in their life where they have been a bully or treated other people poorly.

[00:02:06] I’m just gonna say it’s not something that I’m proud of. I’m definitely not coming here and saying, oh, you know, I was a bully, and how cool is that? It’s not the case. But I want to share this perspective with you because I just want you to take a minute to acknowledge that a lot of people who are engaging in bullying or victimizing behaviour may not necessarily be doing that deliberately. It may not always be coming from a bad place.

[00:02:41] Now, this is not to say that there aren’t really nasty people out there. Unfortunately there are. There are way too many, and I wish there wasn’t. It makes me feel really sad when I get a new client who has been bullied. They have experienced some kind of workplace harassment or trauma, [00:03:00] something has gone on that has shattered them, and I see the results of workplace bullying all the time. People who are experiencing anxiety or depression, people who are incredibly burnt out, people who could be on the verge of, or having mental breakdowns due to the way that they have been treated in the workplace.

[00:03:22] So when I think about that and when I share that with you, I think it’s pretty natural to think like those people that are doing that are assholes. And I get why you would think that too. A lot of the time, I’ll be honest with you, that’s where my mind goes immediately as well, I think. Wow. Like how could you treat somebody like that? But today I just wanna look at things from a little bit of a different perspective and hopefully just open your mind a little or get you to think in a little bit of a different way.

[00:03:56] I know this could be a controversial topic. I’m definitely not [00:04:00] discussing this because of the fact that, you know, I want to create any controversy around this or because I want to upset anybody with my thoughts on this. But I do think it is important because if we don’t have these conversations, then often we are not actually giving ourselves the opportunity to change our own behaviour or do things differently, especially if any of our behaviours could be in fact considered bullying or just downright poor behaviour towards another human.

[00:04:32] So when I say that a lot of bullies aren’t bad people or they’re not coming from a bad place, like, what do I mean? Well, a lot of people engage in this sort of behaviour or treatment of others for a lot of different reasons. Some of them have had this behaviour role modeled to them, so maybe the leaders that they have looked up to in their careers have had this kind of behaviour and you know, you’ve been [00:05:00] kind of conditioned or taught that this is normal, this is the way that you treat other people.

[00:05:06] Some people as well, when they’ve had these experiences start to believe that they need to be a certain way in order to be successful. I see this a lot with people who are looking to climb the corporate ladder. They want to move up and get new opportunities, and they believe that in order to do that, they need to be a hardass.

[00:05:30] They need to put this face on that tells everyone that they mean business means that sometimes they can believe that in order for them to succeed and for them to achieve their career goals, that that means somebody else has to lose. And then the behaviour that they perpetuate is the behaviour that is deliberately trying to pull somebody else down and prevent them from being, quote unquote, [00:06:00] the winner.

[00:06:01] I’ve also seen people with different behavioural styles that move into leadership that could be potentially seen as being bullying or utilizing unfair tactics in the workplace. Now, I’ve spoken before really briefly about the fact that I do dis behavioural profiling in my business. It’s something I’m really passionate about and I’m really looking forward to doing more work around this in 2023.

[00:06:27] It is something though that I teach to all of my clients, and I encourage everyone to get across it because it is such a valuable tool when it comes to understanding your own behavioural preferences, your energetic preferences, and strengths and development areas, and of course your burnout skills that we’ve talked about in our previous episodes as well.

[00:06:47] What I often see is that each of our DISC behavioural profiles actually has different strengths and development areas when it comes to leadership and those development areas. If [00:07:00] they are not nurtured and worked on to improve, can lead to bullying behaviour.

[00:07:08] People who may be more compliance oriented, for example, are very focused on the nitty gritty details. So they crave information. They crave expertise. They feel as though they need all of the information in order to make a decision. I’m sure that you could imagine the way that this type of behavioural style could cause problems or be seen as bullying by other people in their teams.

[00:07:34] And of course, bullying is not just limited to people in leadership. We have people at all levels who are bullying their colleagues or treating them inappropriately, and it could be because of the fact that they themselves are in an unresourceful state, and the parts of their behavioural preferences that they’re calling upon are [00:08:00] not ideal.

[00:08:00] I like to believe that everybody is doing the best that they can in that moment and with the resources that are available to them. It’s something as well that I had drummed into me during my NLP training that essentially, everybody believes that they’re coming from a place of good. Everybody believes that what they’re doing is the right thing based on their own model of the world.

[00:08:24] And it’s for this reason that I believe that most people, when they are labeled as a bully or when they are engaging in bullying or negative type behaviours, they are generally not doing it because that’s what they’re trying to do, right?

[00:08:43] I don’t think a lot of these people are waking up in the morning and saying, Hey, I’m gonna go to work and be an asshole today, or I’m gonna go and bully someone. I’m gonna make someone’s life a misery. I think that they often have their own agendas or objectives or outcomes that they’re trying to [00:09:00] achieve.

[00:09:00] And a lot of the time they just don’t understand that their behaviour is missing the mark or they don’t understand how their behaviour is actually impacting someone else, or they don’t understand how their behaviour is actually crossing a line and moving from performance management or making healthy suggestions or providing a constructive criticism into a world of something else completely.

[00:09:28] This episode is brought to you by the Career Clarity Quest, my absolutely free, seven day program, which is designed to support you in getting so much clearer about your next steps. Find it at PopYourCareer.com/quest.

[00:09:49] So why am I talking about this in today’s episode? Well, I just wanna bring more awareness to it, and I want to encourage you to take a moment to reflect on your own [00:10:00] behaviour, to really ask yourself that question, am I a bully? Is any of my behaviour inappropriate? Is there anything that I might have done that could be seen as bullying, harassment, or unfair treatment of another employee?

[00:10:17] If the answer is yes, I just want you to also acknowledge that at the moment that is okay. I don’t think that anyone needs to go into a tail spin and be like, holy shit, I’ve just realized that I’m a bully. What next? Um, I don’t think it’s a cause for panic as such, but I do believe that it is an opportunity for you to change, for you to get help, for you to look at ways that you can actually improve the way that you engage with other people.

[00:10:49] This episode is not about convincing anyone who is being bullied that their bully is not a bully. That is not what I’m here for at all. [00:11:00] And it’s also not because I want you to feel sorry for that person to pity them or to cut them any slack when it comes to the way that they have been engaging.

[00:11:12] This episode is really designed to just give everybody an opportunity to do a little bit of a self check in. To just acknowledge any of that behaviour that could be harmful or that could be creating trauma for other employees or team members. To take the opportunity to have a little bit of a think about how you might be able to change the way that you’re showing up, whether you are a leader or not, either way this might be something that you decide that you would like to work on with someone else. I could highly recommend that you see a therapist or a career coach or somebody who has the experience to help you unpack some of these behaviours, to understand why you’re actually behaving that way in the first place, and to actually look at some ways [00:12:00] that you can make some changes to that behaviour and do so with a really positive and optimistic attitude for the future.

[00:12:11] So now that we’ve talked a little bit about this topic, I’m gonna ask the question again. Are you a bully? And I’m gonna extend the question to have you ever been a bully? And if the answer to either of those questions is yes, this is a beautiful, beautiful invitation to you to dive into that behaviour and to start to look at what’s going on behind the scenes and how you can make a shift, particularly now as we move into the new year.

[00:12:46] I hope that you have a great week. I really hope that this episode has given you something to think about or to reflect on, and if you have had any aha moments or something has come up for you [00:13:00] that you are struggling with, please feel free to reach out to me. I would love to chat with you, and by all means, if we are a good fit, then I would love to work with you. I’ll see you soon.


[00:13:12] Thanks so much for listening to the Pop Your Career podcast. I hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s tips and that you found value in what I’ve shared with you. If you like your career advice quick and entertaining, I would love for you to subscribe. Also leave me a rating and a review. If you wanna continue the conversation, come and join me over on social media. You can find me everywhere at Pop Your Career. I’ll see you soon.


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About the author 


Bec McFarland is an experienced HR practitioner, manager, career coach and the creator of Pop Your Career. She delights in sharing practical, straight to the point career advice, spending time with her family and eating Mexican food.