In-depth information on bullying in the workplace

Getting to root causes of workplace bullying - why and how bullies bully - is key to prevention and effective action.

Why and how do bullies bully? Very simply - bullies avoid dealing with their own issues. They can't acknowledge their own anxieties and have to get rid of their bad feelings about themselves. They take defensive actions. For example, they keep any feelings of 'goodness' for themselves  and project their feelings of 'badness' outwards. In their minds they are 'good' and others are 'bad', i.e. failures, incompetent etc.  They test boundaries of others to find a 'container' for their unwanted and unacknowledged aspects of themselves. When projections (and perceptions) become fixed, the bullying begins in earnest.

Whether a target becomes a victim (a container), or not, depends on his/her inner resilience, ability to set boundaries, and gain support from e.g. colleagues, HR staff, EAPs, counsellors and family and friends.

But bullying isn't just about individuals. As this website shows - it arises out of organisational systems, from cultures and structures, from group behaviour, and from interpersonal relationships too.

In the workplace, and elsewhere in schools, homes, and society, a wide range of factors such as unrealistic expectations, vacuums of support, inconsistencies between resources and demands, lack of trust, insecurity, envy, and shame etc  generate the potential for bullying.

For further insights go to 'An Introduction to the Psychodynamics of Workplace Bullying' by Sheila White This is a handbook for HR managers, counsellors, mediators, academics and others wanting to learn more about the systemic and deeper dynamics of bullying. 

Book Reviews

'A long awaited reconceptualisation of workplace bullying'. 'It takes the reader on a fascinating journey beneath the surface, discovering the unconscious developmental phases in the relationship between bully and victim with its complex psychic dynamics'. 

Frans Cilliers, Professor of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, University of South Africa.

'It was eye opening reading Sheila White's introduction to the complex dynamics of workplace bullying. Her thoughtful analysis of why bullying happens and what we can all do to address this, felt particularly relevant in the context of many news stories centring on organisations in crisis; employees, managers or people whom the organisation is supposed to serve, being chronically failed by the system'. 

Natasha de Meric, South London and Maudsley Mental Health Foundation Trust. Extract from a review in Psychodynamic Practice, 23:2, 215-220. (2017)