How to Avoid Hiring a Bully

Much has been written about workplace bullies and the misery they inflict on their staff and coworkers. Addressing workplace bullying is often difficult, however, and so management tends to avoid the issue. Why not take a different approach, and avoid hiring these folks in the first place?

Recruiters and hiring managers serve as gatekeepers, and they can just say no to bullies.

When You Suspect One

Still, recognizing a bully isn’t always easy. A person vying for a job typically keeps certain traits hidden. Nevertheless, if you know the signs, you can be on the lookout.
One indication of possible bully behavior is job hopping. Unusually short stints with no obvious career progression may suggest a series of personality conflicts. Review a candidate’s resume with this in mind.
Naturally, there may be other reasons for job hopping, but if you’re alert to the possibility of a problem, you can alleviate any concerns by asking appropriate interview questions about employment history.

When You Meet One

In addition, when interviewing a candidate, look for signs of bully behavior. Among these are:
Overconfidence. While confidence is an admirable trait, overconfidence may mask insecurity, which may then manifest itself in bully behavior. If a candidate appears overconfident, ask about a time when he or she didn’t meet a goal. You’re looking for the candidate to show self-reflection and humility.
Boastfulness. The job interview provides an opportunity for a candidate to share past successes. The person who does so effectively is one who puts the focus on results, rather than on the role he or she played. A candidate who shares credit with staff and coworkers is preferable to one who thinks he or she alone changed the course of corporate history.
Competitive nature. While a competitive nature is an asset for certain jobs, like sales and sports coaching, it can also get in the way of getting along. Ideally, the job candidate recognizes that he or she is a member of the team, and cares about the team’s success. Interview questions that ask about team accomplishments will provide insight, as well as questions about times the team “lost.” You want to see how the candidate reacts to winning, and to losing.
Driven at all cost. The candidate who wants to succeed, no matter what, may seem admirable at first … until you look closer. What is this person willing to sacrifice for supposed glory? Family, friends, health? Relationships with coworkers? Will he or she plow down anyone who gets in the way?

Take a Pass

In the book, Beating the Workplace Bully, author and organizational strategist Lynne Curry, PhD defines workplace bullying as “psychological violence and aggressive manipulation in the form of repeated humiliation and intimidation.”
Curry cites 2014 research from the Workplace Bullying Institute, which finds that 37 million U.S. workers face “abusive conduct” during their workday.
Such conduct takes a toll on workers, and has an impact on the companies for which they work. Why risk damaging your otherwise fine organization by hiring a bully?

Paula Paula Santonocito, Contributing Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor, is a business journalist specializing in employment issues. She is the author of more than 1,000 articles on a wide range of human resource and career topics, with an emphasis on recruiting and hiring. Her articles have been featured in many global and domestic publications and information outlets, referenced in academic and legal publications as well as books, and translated into several languages.