Bullying and its devastating effects on company culture

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Shout to LYCS Architecture on Unsplash for the photo above.

In my naiveté, I thought that in a time of company culture and corporate values on the wall, expensive employee swag and gift experiences, inspiring company manifestos and people’s teams whose job is solely to make employees happy, there cannot be workplace bullying anymore.

Well, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, (yes, this institute actually exists) more than 60 million working people in the United States are affected by bullying. That’s a ridiculous amount of people to handle so much pressure and negativity on a daily basis.

Moreover, workplace bullying (WB) has been considered by prior researchers as one of the primary issues for workers’ safety and health and as a key predictor of deteriorating health and well-being among employees because of its severe consequences. So yeah, it’s kind of key to address it if it happens in your company or worse, to you personally.

A princess above, a bully below

Bullies have a typical profile. Sometimes these bullies are extremely good performers, powerhouses who produce a lot and are very visible in the company communications channels.

Also, they are not bullies with everyone — they are very smart on who they can persecute and who they cannot. They usually target below or people that do not influence their area of development — think of peers, team members or subordinates. Rarely, if never, you will ever hear of a case of a subordinate bullying his boss.

So what can be perceived as bullying?

Well, it has many forms and sometimes, it can be very subtle, almost untraceable. One helpful way to identify bullying is to consider how someone external from the issue might view what’s happening. This can depend, at least partially, on the circumstances. But if most people would see a specific behaviour as unreasonable, it’s generally bullying.

Think of some of these examples:

  • A little bit of mockery, almost a humiliating joke that just leaves you confused and hurt. This is verbal abuse.

Unfortunately, there is no law against some of these Cruella Deville or Jokers in the workplace. In fact, it’s one of the few places left where as long as you don’t cross your boss’s lines, you are actually allowed to be a bully. Should you be? Of course NOT. But can you be? SURE.

Moreover, if HR knows about the bullying and lets it happen, it’s like a corrupt police force, there is no safe net left.

What does it say about the bully?

Rough childhood? Tough life and they always needed to get their point across violently? Fear of not being good enough? Fear of losing work tapping into their fear of insignificance? “Children who experience social rejection themselves are more likely to pass it on to others. Children who experience academic failure are also more likely to bully others.”

According to the Bullying Statistics, some research also indicates that the very fact of having power may make some people wish to wield it in a noticeable way, but it is also true that people may be given power without being trained in the leadership skills that will help them wield it wisely. Either situation can contribute to why people bully others.

Maybe it’s all the situations of the above, maybe none. But what we, as an organisation, cannot do is let them pour their pain and suffering on other people.

What would I recommend for the person being bullied? If the bully isn’t technically breaking any rules, how does one report what’s happening without sounding like a whiner? Who should they report then?

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Photo by Morgan Basham on Unsplash

My advice to the person being bullied

No-one has the right to take away your livelihood and happiness. Look at how you sleep and look at your thoughts. If they are always clouded and heavy with fear, this is clearly affecting you more than you realise.

  1. Track all the bullying in as much details as possible. Gather your evidence well — date, the time, where the bullying took place, and other people who were in the (virtual) room.
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Photo by Dee @ Copper and Wild on Unsplash

My advice to the company tolerating it

If you have values like integrity, appreciation, “we are one team” on your walls just remove them. Because you do not yet live up to them. By hiring each and every one of your employees, you have made a promise to offer a good workplace in which everyone has room to do good work.

If you want to see ROI on tackling bullying, according to the latest research, a positive workplace culture has been shown to reduce absenteeism, improve employee wellbeing, performance and retention, which ultimately results in reduce costs.

  1. Identify ALL the bullies. How? As Simon Sinek would say, just ask who’s the a****** in a team and usually all point to one.

Written by

Strategic Marketing Consultant | Awakened Writer | Passionate about #strategic-marketing, #branding and #sustainability | Visit me at www.cristinadanila.com

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