Dear Dave: Some of my fellow employees are bullied by some very cruel coworkers, and I can tell that it hurts them greatly. These workplace bullies mostly leave me alone, because they know I will not put up with their malicious behaviors. However, I have some fellow employees that are so intimidated by the bullies that they actually call in sick in order to not have to deal with the harassment. My manager does nothing to put a stop to the bullying, because she believes the bullies may turn on her. It is all so sad, and good people have left our department because of it. What are your thoughts? – N
Dear N: I think that all workplace bullying must be stopped, and the bullies must be disciplined. There are enough problems workers need to face these days, and they absolutely must not be bullied when they are trying to do a good job and have a good day. Personally, I think your manager must be disciplined for failing to do her job.
The scars that we have from being bullied as children, or young adults, seem to never go away completely. The topic of bullying has received quite a bit of attention by psychologists and social workers, because they know that we carry the harmful results of insults, exclusions, and even physical attacks long after we graduate from high school and go on to try and become productive workers who absolutely do not need “bastions of bullying” in the work environment.
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There is not a one of us that has not been bullied in some way and to some extent. And I believe every one of us has seen the devastation our coworkers experience when being bullied. Add to the bullying problem the ease of “cyberbullying.” Unsuspecting people are hit harder and more often by bullies on the Web who have the technical weaponry to carry out their damaging practices. Experienced bullies are experts at knowing how and when to reduce their targets to traumatized “victims.”
According to some bullying authorities, many victims amazingly develop an inner strength and self-reliance that can help them let the harmful treatment just roll off their backs. I am not so sure about this: I believe the scars last a lifetime and – even though it appears we are being tough – we are really hurt far more than we let on. However, if we can come to grips with the bullying we have experienced, we can see bullying for what it is – malicious nonsense produced by small minds that possess profound low self-esteem problems. I think you get my point.
Bullying the bullies?
It is clear that your boss is doing nothing to help your bullied colleagues and – again – I think your manager is a weakling and a “problem dodger.” If your boss was doing her job, the bullying would be stopped in a heartbeat and the bullies would be warned and receive the proper penalties for their abusive treatment.
Simply, there must be a “bullying zero tolerance mandate” enacted, and any further incidents by offenders would lead to discipline all the way up to termination. Bullying must be defined, and your peers will develop bullying defense shields if they receive proper training in spotting bullying, dealing with it, and preventing it from hurting them.
Your bullying co-workers should be made acutely aware that their practices will be dealt with to the same extent that theft, falsifying reports, and sexual harassment would be dealt with. Your existing “toxic culture of bullying” must be stopped with clearly defined penalties that should make even the most brazen bully stopped dead in their tracks. In short, bullies must know exactly how they will be treated if they do not stop their attacks on others.
I believe that workplace bullying is such a devastating problem that if you go to your boss and plead your case about what is going on – and your boss does nothing about it – I would go over her head – and report the abuse that is going on and how your boss refuses to stop it. Now, I know there are people reading my words and are thinking, “That Dave is nuts, because he is telling people to put their jobs and livelihood on the line.” Well, to those people I would say, “Guess what? You’re right – I am.” That’s how bad this problem is and how devastating it is to the bullied victims.
In conclusion, I believe anyone ignoring workplace bullying is supporting it. As President John Kennedy said [in effect] that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people see wrong and do nothing. Bullying is evil and you see the wrong it creates – and I urge you to “do something.”
Contact Dave Conrad with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. Conrad is an associate professor of business at Augsburg University in Rochester.