The vast majority of workplace bullies don’t think of themselves that way. They justify or make excuses about their behavior. However, I suspect that many workplace bullies – at least those who are not actual psychopaths or sociopaths – do know on some level that what they are doing is wrong.
Every manager should consider the following:
- How would you feel if your mother, child or partner was treated the way you treat your target? Not so good? Then what you are doing is wrong.
- Are you flattering yourself? Are you really a perfectionist trying to get the best out of your workforce or are you a petty tyrant satisfying a personal need for power and control? If the latter, your actions are damaging both the target and your employer.
- There is a fine line between workplace abuse and other forms of abuse, including intimate partner abuse, child abuse and elder abuse. Especially for those in a supervisory position, when you zero in on a subordinate target, visualize a small child who is about to be smacked.
- Yes, some employees deserve to be disciplined and/ or fired but there is a difference between exercising legitimate supervisory authority and bullying. No employee ever deserves to be treated disrespectfully or bullied.
- If you are an employer who is using bullying strategically to avoid a legal obligation – such as paying workers compensation – you are taking a serious risk. Sometimes targets of bullying do not simply fade into obscurity. They hire lawyers and sue. And whether they win or lose, you will pay.
- Bullies are “ fortunate” to work in the United States, which unlike many other industrialized countries for decades has ignored overwhelming research that workplace bullying causes potentially severe mental and physical damages to targets. But times are changing. Educated employers do not tolerate bullying because they know that they ultimately pick up the tab in terms of needless turnover, absenteeism, higher health costs, litigation, etc.
- If you are a Human Resources “professional” and you turn a blind eye when a worker complains to you about being bullied – or make things worse for the target – you are part of the problem. You are acting unethically and doing a great disservice to your employer.
New research is showing that workplace bullies are often their own worst enemies. American is growing less tolerant of this kind of management style. It’s one thing if a manager gets an isolated complaint but it can quickly end a promising career when there are multiple bullying complaints. For all of the above reasons and many more, I propose the following resolution for workplace bullies in 2012: