Bullying in the workplace is a problem that can affect anyone within any level of the organization, it is particularly complex when it comes to leadership. Leaders are expected to be strong, confident, and decisive, but when these traits become abusive and destructive, the situation becomes more complicated. This article explores the complexities of leadership and bullying and how they can be understood and addressed.

Imposter syndrome is a phenomenon in which an individual doubts their abilities and feels like a fraud despite having achieved success. It is common among high achievers, including leaders, and can contribute to bullying behavior. When a leader feels insecure, they may try to compensate by putting down others or micromanaging. It is important to recognize imposter syndrome and address it through self-reflection, self-care strategies and/or possibly therapy.

When we think of bullying, we often think it is something we need to deal with if it is occurring in the moment, but research shows that bullying which is currently happening or has historically occurred, can still trigger imposter syndrome. A person’s confidence can be impacted at multiple layers, creating other emotions and impacting their behaviors towards others, such as acts of bullying (withholding information, targeting, displaying certain non-verbal behaviors).

Leaders who engage in workplace bullying can create a culture of fear and mistrust, which can lead to high turnover rates and low productivity. It is important for organizations to have clear policies and procedures in place to address workplace bullying. However, I believe it is equally important to have the appropriate long-term strategies which inform a psychologically safe process when enforcing policies and procedures within a system. If not, more harm can be the result.

Executive bullying is a particular type of workplace bullying that occurs at the highest levels of an organization. Leaders who engage in executive bullying may use their power and influence to intimidate or manipulate others. This type of bullying can be difficult to address because those who are targeted may fear retaliation or damage to their careers. It is important for organizations to create a culture of transparency and accountability to prevent executive bullying.

Bullying and imposter syndrome can feed into each other. Leaders who experience imposter syndrome may try to compensate by putting down others, while those who are bullied may develop imposter syndrome as a result of the abuse. It is important to recognize and address both issues to break the cycle of this type of toxic behavior.

I have listened to many of you share how difficult it can be to address, manage and/or prevent bullying (if experiencing bullying directly or indirectly). And I recall having to with bullying within the workplace personally so I know it is easier said than done. Reason is it is hard to confront a painful situation and this is essentially what must take place.  It may involve confronting the bully, reporting the behavior to a superior or HR representative, or seeking therapy to address the effects of the bullying. In these moments inserting self-care strategies which will allow one to remain present, confident, clear and intentional can assist the process. Sharing your story can cause re-traumatization so this is a secondary reason learning various self-care strategies is essential when managing bullying within workspaces, self-care can assist in the prevention of further trauma.

Leadership and bullying are complex issues that require a nuanced understanding. By recognizing the various forms of bullying and addressing the root causes, organizations can create a culture of respect and empathy. Leaders have a responsibility to model positive behavior and to create an accountable and inclusive work environment. By working together, through demonstrating effective and comprehensive ways of living a life built on mental wellness we can create workplaces that is free from bullying and promote the well-being of all employees.

Remember Self-Care is the Best-Care. Why Wait. Start N.O.W.