Buillies aren’t just found on school grounds. There is growing recognition that they exist on the workplace, and they can make life hell for their targets as well as undermine their company’s business objectives by diminishing their targets – and usually their team’s – ability to function effectively.
Why any business puts up with it beats me. At best, it’s wasteful nonsense; at worst it is deeply destructive and sabotages the organization. In my small-business work experience, it would not be tolerated: it’s too easily apparent that tolerating bullying behaviour is a net drain on the business even if it’s by a high-performer.
The following piece is the personal experience of someone I know well. She prefers to remain anonymous for obvious reasons. The experience below occurred in a large hotel chain headquartered in Europe, with over 145,000 employees.
Readers, if you relate to her experience, I’d so appreciate if you leave a comment. I’d like to know how much it cost you personally, because there’s always a dollar value attached, and what you’d estimate its cost was (dollar value) to the company where you experienced it. You can leave your comment anonymously – just fill in fake e-mail and name. I’ll never know the difference.
BULLIED ON THE JOB
Serial workplace bullying is only one of the recognized workplace bullying behaviours seen in today’s business world, and it doesn’t seem to matter which industry or country you are in. Despite legislation or corporate policies, many companies still have ongoing issues of this unsocial behaviour. How do I know? I have been targeted by serial workplace bullies in two countries. I don’t have scientific research to back up my thoughts — I have personal experience and desktop research. This is what I know.
Bullies will continue to be part of the workplace as long as people don’t talk about it. I think it is time to keep the conversation going. And to have a conversation, it is helpful to have the facts.
Bullies don’t target the stereotype of weak incapable staff — they target people who are ethical, just, fair, well-liked, highly personable, strong, independent, intelligent and self-assured.
Bullies are driven by feelings of inadequacy at being able to do their job, and fear being exposed. Bullies envy the target’s abilities, are jealous of their social skills and relationships. Bullies turn their insecurity outwards, finding satisfaction as they attack and try to diminish the capable people around them. Bullies try to project guilt, shame and fear — which are known as tactics of control. It is how all abusers try to gain control over their targets and silence them.
And there is a huge impact on our societies. Bullying affects individuals, colleagues, corporations, organizational productivity and the economy. Many of these targeted individuals either take long periods of leave from work, or they leave, some never finding their feet again. The cost to lives and communities continues to add up. Why do we keep accepting this behaviour in our society?
As I said, I was bullied at work, once in Canada and twice in Australia. After being bullied the first time, and choosing to learn from the experience, when I saw the signs a second time, I had no issue to act and speak out quickly.
In my first meeting with the new General Manager after returning to work from my summer holiday, I was confronted with a finger wagging across the desk at me and the words “I have it on good authority that you…” with very negative words about me coming next. I was appalled. Rather than get to know me, he chose to believe, and repeat the vicious words the two office bullies had started to circulate the weeks before I went on leave. I was the third manager in our team to be targeted in 12 months. I recognized the signs all too well. I had spoken to HR before, now it was directed at me.
When his phone rang, I excused myself from his office and called his bluff. I went back to my office, sorted my emails, packed my personal belongings from my desk and typed up my resignation. Within 30 minutes of experiencing the escalation of the bullying, I left with eight weeks pay.
I also talked about what was going on, to former colleagues, to other managers, to HR — I got it on record. I knew it was my choice about how long I wanted to stay, or leave. This organization had no bullying policy — and no intention of putting one in place. There would be too many staff to deal with if a new policy was written. I knew there was nothing I could do to change the corporate will to stop the bullying.
If you are being bullied, or know someone who is being bullied, learn about it. There is plenty of good information available online. Know that you are not alone, that bullying will not go away through your good behaviour, and decide what you are going to do to look after yourself.
Resources for folks being bullied:
Photo Credit: CoalandIce