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Home > Assessing the organization, Self Scrutiny, Staff relations > Destination Intimidation Part 2: The Benevolent Bully

Destination Intimidation Part 2: The Benevolent Bully

December 10th, 2009

For an institution to run efficiently and effectively, the three ”C’s” of effective operations need to be in place.  These fundamentals are:  Chain of command, Communication, Clique control. An effective leader will best drive these lessons home and make them part of the institution’s values. 


All three of these foundation elements are challenged by the specter of bullying in the workplace.  Bullies of all varieties thrive on control.  They rule through coercion.  Their presence often makes achieving the mission statement of any agency more difficult.  And sometimes when we endeavor to control bullying (or take out the trash) we might consider some unorhtodox methods.

take-out-the-trashThere are times where the bully is best handled by the determination and bold assertion that many bullies use.  And it must be tempered with policy and procedure. The Benevolent Bully is a leader who is the champion of the oppressed, an anti-bully type of bully.


This may go against conventional wisdom.  But those who think “Might makes right” may be ruled by that. Sometimes, the situation quite simply warrants a Benevolent Bully. 


Benevolent bully seems to be a contradiction in terms. Benevolence refers to kindness.  Bully refers to coercion.  This is merely a term used to describe a colleague or leader who will stand up to bullies in the workplace in a decisive manner.  The bully component really points to assertion, rather than to aggression. .  The benevolent part is kindness and compassion toward the smooth running of an institution.

The benevolent bully is flexible, yet operates in a uniform manner. One can be hard on bullying offenses, for example, but still lenient on minor infraction. A good example of this is the leader who, ironically, has a zero tolerance of coercion among colleagues.


Through the POINTS system, we see that there is a complex array of bullies: Physical, Obnoxious, Intellectual, Necessary, Together, and Sexual bullies.  (See “How to identify corrections bullies: the POINTS system” The Corrections Professional 9.5 (2003): 3.) 


There are so many leadership styles.  But there is no single manner is appropriate for all situations.  Facilities vary and foci are never quite the same. In addition, the intangibles of culture make the mix more interesting. But the introduction of a benevolent bully could help an institution to run more smoothly and attain the 3 C’s.

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joebouchard Assessing the organization, Self Scrutiny, Staff relations

  1. roger fancher
    September 30th, 2011 at 13:09 | #1

    The very term benevolent bully defines a bully as anyone w/ a presumably unfair advantage over an opponent, notwithstanding right or wrong. I don’t know if there is a more appropriate term than bb, but it seems to be the closest thing there is to de-stigmatizing combative superior resistance against an unjust combatant.

    My question is…Why should “benevolent bully” be restricted to corporate settings? How about a big person in the right vs a small person in the wrong. All too often, the term “bully” is applied here. If you think it’s unfair for a big person to fight back against a little person, why do you think it’s ok to gang up on the big person for doing so? I’ve noticed some approving of this hypocrisy, totally ignoring the fact that a numerical advantage is at more unfair than a size advantage. I say either disambiguate the term “bully” or quit applying the term to someone who asserts a combative edge against an unjust opponent. I think “disambiguate” means to give it more than 1 meaning.

  2. rc fancher
    October 1st, 2011 at 23:40 | #2

    Everybody believes in benevolent bullies, depending on who’s side they take. The one they favor can take any advantage available. The one on the other side has to “fight fair” & “play by the rules.” Sometimes social & political pressure pressures the virtuous to fight fair, & sanction cheating @ their expence if they don’t comply. The one truly in the right deserves an unfair advantage. The one in the wrong has no business in the fray he started. He’s the interloper.
    If “benevolent bully” becomes a contradiction in terms, them “bully” needs to be defined down, & never used in application to define use of any & every legitimate advantage

  3. October 6th, 2011 at 12:36 | #3

    Thanks very much for these comments. The entire thing is like a conceptual onion. There are so many layers. Just when one is convinced that the whole outer layer is explored, there is more underneath to ponder.

    I liked the alliterative feel of “bene3volent bully” and the contradiction built in. But, I am more pleased that your comments give me reason to explore the concept once again.

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