In my first management role a few decades ago, I had a direct report who on occasion would bully me and others. In dire need of leadership development, I made some futile attempts to manage this problem behavior before eventually firing him. It took a lot of personal work on my part since that time to get to where I can successfully eliminate bullying behaviors while salvaging the talent for which the person was hired in the first place.
When managers do not intervene bullying behaviors, including those directed at them, they open the door for other would-be bullies to show them and others the same disrespect. I believe if weak managers as described above were to consider some documented far-reaching consequences of what can happen when bullying behaviors are left unchecked, that may be inspiration enough for them to seek coaching or leadership development. As a clinical psychologist who has taken over two thousand histories of former clients and patients (Duke Medical Center), I can say that it is a phenomenon that the one bullied at work may end up displacing his or her anger onto innocent others at home, work, or elsewhere.
The point is this: Managers who allow bullies their free reign of terror should consider themselves vicariously responsible for a certain amount of domestic discord or abuse, both subtle and not-so-subtle. Such “fear-of-confrontation” managers owe it to these ultimate victims to seek leadership development for both themselves and the bully in question. Most people who engage in what others perceive as bullying behaviors tend to deny such behaviors are mean-spirited. Indeed it is often due to low-level self-awareness or emotional intelligence. It is not an IQ thing; oftentimes the reticent manager is bright but simply doesn’t know a better way to intervene, and the bully himself or herself likewise essentially doesn’t know a better way to motivate others while managing their stress. With thousands of leadership coaches and programs worldwide, abundant resources exist not only to help hone those skills essential to managing bullies but also to help bullies out of their dysfunctional patterns.