How to Get Away with Workplace Bullying

Link to this article on HuffPost

Workplace bullying isn’t a new issue; however, it wasn’t until recent years that this topic became a newsworthy event after several high profile school and workplace bullying incidents.  This additional coverage made it more permissive to discuss this dirty secret – workplace bullying – that creates unhealthy work environments around the world.  The epidemic of silence related to this topic has led to individual’s dealing with unnecessary abuse (e.g., physical, emotional, and psychological) and suffering alone.

The reasons that many workplace bullies are allowed to create hostile work environments is that individuals – including the targets of workplace bullying – and organizations don’t do anything or take minimal action(s) to eliminate unwanted, unneeded, and unnecessary abuse.

Ways individuals and organizations get away with workplace bullying:
* Isolate a Target – limit attacks to times that a bullying target is alone, which may cause a target to believe that there’s something wrong with them;

* Use of Authority to Control a Target – targets who don’t comply or submit to a bully’s actions or behaviors may experience negative outcomes (e.g., verbal attacks, less optimal assignments, delayed promotions or raises, critical performance reviews, etc.);

* Convince a Target That It’s Their Fault – bullies can cause a target to believe that attacks are due to their action(s) or behavior(s);

* Demeaning Behaviors or Attacks – derogatory words, references, expressions, or other negative commentary are used to convey an aggressive posture toward a target;

* Innuendos Used to Predict Negative Outcomes – indirect communication that bad things may happen if a bully’s actions or behaviors aren’t adhered to or tolerated;

* Targets Don’t Report Harassment – concerns about a potential of future attacks prevent a target from taking action(s) to protect themselves or others;

* Witnesses Don’t Report Incidents – harassment isn’t reported – even anonymously – to someone with authority to resolve an issue, which indirectly sanctions the attacks;

* Permissive Leaders or Organizational Culture – an organization’s leaders or culture allow a hostile work environment to exist, which permits (directly or indirectly) harassment or abuse within an organization;

* Rules Don’t Apply to Superstars – individuals with recognized performance are allowed to behave in detrimental ways because of their ability to deliver;

* Legal Process Used to Outlast Complainants – companies can delay efforts to resolve a bullying complaint, which can cause a complainant to withdraw a bona-fide legal challenge due to the time, cost, or other factors to pursue an actionable claim;

* Laws Don’t Protect Resources From Workplace Bullies – workplace bullying is legal in many U.S. jurisdictions and in countries around the world; therefore, resources don’t report harassment due to a lack of legal protection — even if company policies apply.

Workplace bullying shouldn’t be allowed to exist — especially unchallenged, as there are numerous ways to inspire resources without abusive, demeaning, or condescending behavior.  Moreover, resources shouldn’t have to deal with or tolerate any type of harassment.

All resources should be protected against preventable harassment by individuals who and organizations that take proactive, immediate, and decisive action(s) to resolve any unhealthy work environment issues.  Otherwise, resources, organizations, and societies will continue to be negatively impacted by workplace bullying through reduced efficiency, lost productivity, and unnecessary barriers for advancement.

Additional information on workplace bullying can be obtained in Mr. Young’s solution-oriented book “Bullies…They’re In Your Office, Too: Could you be one?” or his mini-book “Management Spotlight: Workplace Bullying”.