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Dr. Tanenbaum: Factors that can Trigger Workplace Bullying

Yesterday guest blogger Susan Hosage, had this to say about Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs):

"EAPs provide assistance with marital and behavioral issues, substance abuse, loss and grief, family violence, separation or divorce, financial counseling, and legal resources to name a few areas of support."

Thus, the services EAPs provide may address problems that have nothing whatsoever to do with the organization but that may result in undesired conduct at work such as bullying.

Psychologist Dr. Robert Tanenbaum who has been a member of the Workplace Violence Prevention Institute's Think Tank since its inception identifies some of the reasons why people bully and the triggers may be traced to the bully's personal life.

Dr. Tanenbaum presenting a module on bullying at a WVPI conference.

“There are individual warning signs that frequently include a change in personal circumstances (such as a divorce or other unstable relationship), financial hardship, health problems and alcohol or substance abuse,” Dr. Tanenbaum states.

These external issues are not left at the employer's door, but may creep in and affect how the individual behaves at work.

“Perpetrators of bullying and workplace violence tend to demonstrate high levels of negative emotions and are prone to disagree with colleagues. Perpetrators often have a history of being bullied and exhibit personality traits such as narcissism, anger, low self-esteem and vengefulness,” he states.

Allowing bullying to exist in a workplace comes with a high price tag and can be both quantitatively and qualitatively addressed.

“There are human and organizational costs that are direct and indirect consequences of bullying,” Dr. Tanenbaum explains.

In this regard he adds: “The human costs include detriments to health and well-being such as psychological distress, depression, anxiety, exhaustion and anger. The organizational costs include employee burnout, absenteeism/sickness, decreased citizenship behavior, lower task performance and creativity, and lower job satisfaction. All of these outcomes can ultimately impact the company's financial position and good will."


About Dr. Tanenbaum

Robert L. Tanenbaum, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in PA and NJ.

For the past 30 years, he has been the Regional Director of the Institute Forensic Psychology’s Southeastern New Jersey and Pennsylvania Regional Office. He provides post-offer pre-employment and fitness for duty law enforcement psychological evaluations to over 70 law enforcement and public safety agencies, including municipal, city, University campus, and federal law enforcement and corrections departments, including the Veterans Administration Healthcare System and the Department of Homeland Security.

He is a member of the IACP Police Psychological Services Section (and currently serves on several special committees), the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology, and APA’s Division 18 (Police and Public Safety Section). Additionally, Dr. Tanenbaum is an Advisory Board member of Penn State University’s Response to School Vulnerability (violence) Project (RSVP), an Advisory Board member of Stationhouse (a Residential Treatment Program for First Responders with Post Traumatic and/or Alcohol/Substance Abuse Issues), located in Boynton Beach, Florida), an adjunct clinical Professor of Psychology at Temple University and a Senior consultant to the City of Philadelphia Police Department.

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