BULLIES AT WORK
We read all the time about Bullies. As I am writing this, there are 3 - 4 people, sitting semi circle around a hot tub, who have succeeded in cowing the residents of 150 unit adults only complex. The behaviors are the ones we remember from grade school. but with a twist. Nobody including the place's manager can stop them for long.
In the long hot summer, I learned to appreciate Dr. King's phrase "sweltering with injustice." The difference is this. In 1963 MLK was speaking about an entire society. I am talking about a communal swimming pool. Amidst the chaos, I discovered a unique solution, recommended to work. Use another pool. It works.
Even in the adult world, there are Bullies we cannot avoid. From one internet ad, “ Bullying is a systematic campaign of interpersonal destruction that jeopardizes your health, your career, the job you once loved. Bullying is a non-physical, non-homicidal form of violence and, because it is violence and abusive, emotional harm frequently results. You may not be the first person to have noticed that you were bullied. Check to see how many of these indicators match yours...."
Note the part that says, your health and your career.
We live in a harsh and cruel time. The internet is full of stories of those who have been victimized to the point of physical collapse, by a morally deficient schoolroom culture. or even being bullied out of a job. “Snark” has almost been institutionalized as a new American dialect. With the technologies we have today, any party can sit in a closet somewhere and make a life intolerable. Like many of you, I have had my life, online presence, and identity hacked.
Bullying is not confined to experiences endured in Middle School. Horror stories from work abound. Mine came years ago while working for a department store chain that has since disappeared. I was the only male manager in this huge operation and had a job overseeing departments such as shoes and electronics that were leased out. For the three years of my life I spent in that store, there was no escaping daily sarcasm and verbal abuse from the store manager. It had happened to my predecessor and was the result of a protracted war with the merchandise manager that oversaw my areas.
It never ended. It was the endless ridicule that eroded things most, as being demeaned in front of 100 at store meetings, seldom made my days at 18. Being the designated scapegoat, brought the realization that open disdain encouraged a crowd. There was a posse of 4-5 friends/ assistants that followed their protector from store to store: whatever store they landed in, ended up becoming the next clearance store. or closing.
One day my tormentor never returned. from a performance review. The friends were each dispersed to other locations where a common fate ensued. Each ended up leaving for the same causes, mainly treating their team members like they were not even human. One even tackled and choked a supervisor after a robbery. Sounds like the corporation finally did a good job of diagnosing an issue? Hardly. The outcome was driven by karma and luck and politics. I have never forgotten the experience. For, as they say, your younger years are impressionable.
Entire communities can be torn apart by bullies and destroyed by bullies. Some are even run by bullies. Think of Mayor Filner of San Diego as a recent example. The examples in the world of countries run by bullies are endless, and some believe that the recent troubles in Congress were part of a culture of bullying by one side or another. The examples of companies brought down by this kind of culture are rampant. The moral of the story is that bullying is ultimately about violence without bullets. The response is up to us.
In researching this information, I found a great resource called the Workplace Bullying Institute. Their website states, "More than 50 million Americans have reported being bullied at work at a point in time in their career. Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:”
- Verbal abuse
- Offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating
- Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done
The Typical Bully:
- Is driven by perpetrators' need to control the targeted individual(s).
- Is initiated by bullies who choose their targets, timing, location, and methods.
- Requires consequences for the targeted individual
- Escalates to involve others who side with the bully, either voluntarily or through coercion.
- Undermines legitimate business interests when bullies' personal agendas take precedence over work itself.
- Is akin to domestic violence at work, where the abuser is on the payroll.
Synonyms that reflect the seriousness of bullying:
- Psychological Violence
- Psychological Harassment
- Personal Harassment
- 'Status-Blind' Harassment
- Emotional Abuse at Work
Euphemisms intended to trivialize bullying and its impact on bullied people:
- Difficult People
- Personality Conflict
- Negative Conduct
- "Ill Treatment "
More information can be found at www.workplacebullying.org
Words hurt. Not only the cruelties that are uttered injure. Equally harmful is the inability to speak "truth to power" because of fear. Sadly even a corporation may be scared to take these groups on, for the worse offenders often do not go down without a huge fight, perhaps in court.
Not defining the term for what it is, "bullying," in order to avoid igniting the behaviors of the bully, is tantamount to writing off oppressed people in your own business, whose jobs and careers, are under constant attack. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once wrote of our tendency to “define deviancy downward”, and to create processes that perpetuate what happens, simply by opting not to define aberrant behaviors for what they actually are.
Too often we collectively see these things go on before us, where somebody ends up being the designated sick one, the others choose to demean. Sometimes we quietly acquiesce, because the consequences could haunt us. It is the accumulation of those untaught moments, that begins to take an entire business down.
Hoteliers, Retailers, and Restaurant Operators exist in an industry where what makes or breaks a customer interaction, is the vibe a guest feels the instant they are coming through the door. These moments are driven by contact with the very team members usually most affected by contention, by virtue of their proximity to the places it percolates.
WHY DO THEY BULLY?
- Self-Esteem - Bullies often times belittle others in order to boost their own ego and self-esteem.
- Power - Bullies may abuse his/her position of power in order to gain control over their victim.
- Organizational Culture - The morals and values dictating the workplace culture, creates expectations that are accepted as respectable behavior among employees.
- Difference - Being new to the organization or considered "different" from counterparts may cause a person or group to become primary targets of workplace bullying.
- Perceived Threat - Bullies may view an individual as a threat both personally and professionally.
Bullying is a process of seeking validation in all the wrong places. Usually, it’s a struggle with other personal emotional issues driving that anger. Just remember, it's not about you. Take steps to ensure you do not become the victim. Why should you be harassed from a job you have an aptitude for, or even in extreme cases, unemployed for a time, due to the hatred of others?
Defining terms is the first step. Many are so beaten down, they can never confront their bully due to possible repercussions. Others remain inert, for fear of inviting the same treatment. Often not just raises and reviews are in the balance, and cultures where the behaviors “roll downhill” makes it almost impossible for the oppressed to find a relief. Bullying creates a dynamic where the “Stockholm Syndrome” occurs or an odd attraction to power, creates allies to support his/her claims against the target.
When no one raises their voice, cancer goes on and on. Often, those who even whisper a word go unheard and any claims will be dismissed as those of a malcontent. As the target suffers from the lack of confidence established by the bully, it becomes even harder for the bullied to speak out, Regaining one’s personal power and control over the dynamic is the first step in the coping process.
Other steps include:
- Documenting all information and conversations in writing especially verbal conversations! Having information compiled in writing is crucial when bringing claims against a workplace bully.
- Limiting the personal information individuals may know about you throughout the workplace. Remember, that old saying "less is more." The less personal information the bully may know leads to less criticism and allegations.
- Limit the amount of time you engage in gossip
- Find someone to vent and discuss the situation with that is not associated with the company.
Staying silent will not alleviate the situation, but will make matters worse and heighten the mental and emotional turmoil. Familiarize yourself with any anti-bullying procedures associated with the company handbook, and study the employee handbook to gain a better understanding of the reporting process against the bullies.
Outside of the sign on your building, the defining aspect of an operation has to be encouraging a culture that focuses on the core competencies and values an operation has to employ to succeed. Mini tyrannies where the bullies reside divert energies, corrupt the organizational dynamic, perhaps to the point they have the power to make the leaders their next victim. That is why leveraging the 90 day period to identify concerns is so crucial. The next step is to take decisive action. Find the bullies, fix the situation, or assist them in finding an exit strategy to go elsewhere.
When we work in service industries it matters even more. It's hard to deliver the promise of superior service to our guests if we do not promote those value in our own house. A good video follows.
MANY BLESSINGS - NOEL