Most people are probably well aware of the personality traits of the typical bully. However, they may not be aware that many bullying victims actually possess many of the same characteristics as their oppressors.
Management professor Jacqueline Power conducted a survey of 224 Canadian university students aged 18 to 47 with prior work experience mostly in service, administrative and technical jobs to determine whether they had experienced negative workplace events consistent with bullying.
“We didn’t actually ask them about the nasty “B” word,” she said. “We just asked them for a list of behaviours, which can range from yelling at people to not passing along information they need to do their jobs.”
Using a variety of surveys, she also measured for such personality traits as narcissism, Machiavellianism, and subclinical psychopathy, all characteristics typically associated with bullies.
The survey found that about 37.5 percent of participants reported being victimized by negative acts at least once a week in the previous six months. But the study also showed that almost 90 percent of bullies and about 42 percent of victims could be categorized as “bully/victims,” operationally defined as being both perpetrators and targets at least once a week in the previous six months.
The research, published in a paper in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, also demonstrated a correlation between victimization and narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. As to why that happens, Dr. Power was uncertain.
“It might be that they’re in a situation where they’re being treated badly, and they also have the opportunity to treat someone else badly,” she said. “We need to study it more, but people have found over and over again that people who are both bullies and victims are particularly nasty individuals.”
Power will appear today on Research Matters, a weekly talk show that showcases the work of University of Windsor researchers and airs every Thursday at 4:30 p.m. on CJAM 99.1 FM.
Listen to the show: