I was reading an article on arstechnica recently, titled Measuring the boss from hell. It struck a chord for me, naturally, so I read the article. I was rather intrigued to see what a tech site would have to say about workplace bullying, as I assumed that’s what the article was about. However the article is mostly about a new scale developed called WARS (Workplace Arrogance Scale).

Arrogance? I was confused at first as to why they used arrogance instead of bullying when they referenced a boss from hell. When I read the article many of the quotes it uses are blatant descriptions of workplace bullies. Quotes such as the following, ”According to the authors, ‘Cassano had penchants for yelling, cursing, bad-mouthing others, and belittling colleagues, as well as little tolerance for opposing viewpoints.’ .” Or, ”the authors note, is typically arrogant behavior: disparaging others as a way to exaggerate your own self-importance, possibly as a way of covering over personal insecurities, all wrapped up in the inability to incorporate feedback from the people you disparage.

Then finishing off with quotes such as, ”The authors found that arrogance not only created a poisonous atmosphere at the workplace, but it actively hindered the ability to get projects done: “These results highlight an interesting paradox: Employees who act superior in actuality have inferior performance.” This quote in particular reminded me of something I read in the bullying study I took part in, that most of the women who are bullied in the workplace by other women are more highly educated than their superiors. Why not with men as well?

The last quote, ”judging by the AIG example given earlier, there are probably some workplace environments where arrogance may not be considered a negative personality trait.”, is exactly how many bullies are portrayed in the workplace. They are considered perhaps a problem, but never addressed.

After posting a question to the Ars Technica Forum of what the difference between workplace arrogance and workplace bullying was I received this reply:

Yes. Workplace arrogance is workplace bullying that you can’t do anything about. If there was an even higher authority to report it to, such as, I dunno, the legal system or something, that, you know, gave a shit, well, they’d just call it bullying and celebrities would speak out against it and groups would take video game makers to court to stop portrayals of it and there would be a lot less of it going around altogether.” (courtesy of SockPuppetGovernment on the ArsTechnica forums)

This may be a harsh way of putting it, but basically this study that created WARS, in their attempts to address workplace arrogance are also, by default, assisting with the management and identification of workplace bullies. If you score too high on their scale your a workplace bully…but we’re not going to call you that. I personally think it’s because the word ‘bully’ is too politicized, but that’s another discussion altogether.