Intent v Impact – Could I be perceived as a bully?

Intent v Impact – Could I be perceived as a bully?

Posted by Amanda Furness


If asked the question, “Do your colleagues think you’re a bully?” the majority’s reaction would be an indignant, “No, certainly not”.  However, an important factor to remember about bullying behaviour is that the intention of the perpetrator is secondary to the impact on the recipient.

Take the example of a small team who have successfully completed a piece of work and, at their final meeting, the customer gives the manager a large box of chocolates as a thank you for a job well done.  Coming back to the office, the manager hands it to one of the team members with the comment, “These are from one happy customer but just because you’ve already broken your diet today doesn’t mean you can eat them all, leave some for the rest of us”.

The manager’s intention was to be humorous and show appreciation to the whole team for their hard work by sharing the customer’s gift.  On this occasion, the impact of the manager’s behaviour was an upset, humiliated team member who felt they had been victimised.

Think before you act is an obvious piece of advice.  However more practical advice is to consider your emotional intelligence (EI). EI is defined as the ability to recognise and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. A high EI is considered a vital quality for leaders, with obvious benefits for workplace relationships, teamwork and personal relationships. Two elements of EI which are of particular significance when intent v impact is being discussed are self-awareness and self-regulation. Both are skills we can all develop and help us to proffer the correct attitude and response in situations such as the one outlined above. They help us understand other people and how they perceive us.

Remember, you judge yourself on your intent, but others judge you on the impact your behaviour has.  “I didn’t mean it to be taken like that” simply isn’t a suitable defence.

Our resilience skills series of articles include  “How do you build self-awareness” which briefly explores that although self-awareness is a well-used term, it is one which is often not fully understood or developed.How regulating our emotions can transform our relationships” explains the importance of naming our feelings, differentiating between thoughts and feelings, and recognising how our feelings can affect our performance. 

If you would like to do some further reading around this subject you’ll find links to articles on our Bullying Resources page including “Does your perception of you match what others think?” and “7 tips to avoid being called a bully at work”.

“Every action we take impacts the lives of others around us.  The question is, are you aware of your impact?”

Arthur Carmazzi


Intent v Impact is one of the topics covered in our tackling bullying in the workplace training courses:



Bullying in the Workplace:  Training for Managers





Bullying in the Workplace: Be Aware!