Leaders who Bully: An Adlerian Perspective on the Purpose and Impact

When the topic of bullying comes up, it is often in the context of schoolyard bullying and is often perceived as an interpersonal conflict. However, bullying occurs in the workplace as well, and workplace bullying has drawn increased attention in recent years. Historically, most bullying research focused on the targets of bullying and attempted to explain how bullies select their targets and how bullying impacts targets. In contrast, this paper will focus on the bullies themselves. While bullying can occur at any level in the organization, this paper focuses on leaders who bully and explains why bullying is not a personality conflict; rather, there are both individual and organizational factors that tolerate, if not encourage, leader bullying. Based on the published literature, this paper will present an overview of the history and development of research related to workplace bullying; the current definition of bullying and characteristics of bullies; an analysis of Adlerian concepts applied to leader bullying; an explanation of why bully leaders are promoted in organizations; an analysis of how leader bullying impacts organizations; and what executive leaders can do to eliminate bullying. This paper will also identify areas where further research is necessary to better understand how and why leaders bully, and what can be done to both stop and prevent this destructive behavior.

Carol Halley
Year Completed: 
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