The Psychodynamics of Bullying in Libraries
Steven W. Staninger
Bullying in the workplace has been defined as:
The repeated actions and practices (of a perpetrator) that are directed to one or more
workers, which are unwanted by the victim, which may be done deliberately, or
unconsciously, but clearly cause humiliation, offense, distress, may interfere with job
performance, and/or cause an unpleasant working environment.
Bullying most often occurs within an organization where negative aspects of that
organizations’ culture aggregate.
The challenge for the library administrator is to identify where these accumulations are, and take steps to re-create the culture of that area and change the systems that allow bullying to occur. This is an essential function of an effective administraton
Bullies will almost always deny that what they are doing is bullying, particularly when the stated goal – or directive sent down from higher administrators – is to
move the organization “forward.”
Bullying includes but is not limited to unreasonable criticism of job performance, attempts to
control workplace interactions between peers, and creating unwritten policies. Other bullying
behaviors include assigning unrealistic workloads, ignoring and ridiculing suggestions about
library operations, and excessive monitoring that leaves employees excluded and isolated, not to mention exhausted.
Librarians would do well to honestly reflect and determine if they are participating in
bullying behaviors, and/or are watching it happen without attempting to take steps to call it out
for what it is.
Library administrators should be vigilant about identifying bullying and addressing it before it becomes ingrained in the institutional culture.
As Reed notes, “Toxic leadership, like leadership in general, is more easily described then
defined, but terms like self-aggrandizing, petty, abusive, indifferent to unit climate, and
interpersonally malicious seem to capture the concept.” 17 Distressingly, a library with a culture of bullying corrupts those who serve it, marginalizing those with initiative and new ideas and rewarding the sycophants. Ultimately, bullying creates a continuous fear of failure, so people work to avoid being bullied instead of attending to their assigned tasks. The result is an ineffective library that falls well short of its intended mission
more on bullying in this IMS blog