Your Organization Must Make It Crystal Clear: Bullying Simply Won’t be Tolerated

I just got the offer. I am so excited.

Then there was a pause. I said congratulations but the silence was deafening, especially after getting a higher title and about $15k more.

You know, she finally said, “I really do not want to leave.

She went on, saying:

I love this company and I love the work I am doing. The problem is the manager I report to. She is the manager from hell. She makes everybody’s life miserable. She has been reported to HR, but her boss and HR does nothing —  not even to the point of bringing her in and speaking with her about her behavior. But for my well-being, I am leaving. Not only that, but everybody in the department has their paper on the street.”

Bullies in the workplace

Yes, I said it. Every time I see an article concerning bullying, especially in high school or college, I say this is a bully-in-training.  If it is not corrected, they will bring that act to a theater near you. Once inside a company, they can infect an entire organization the same way that this person has done.

What really galls me is that how management and HR turns a blind eye and/or makes excuses for it.

Listen up — no one is that important to be allowed to run amok and damage the culture in your organization. I do not care how valuable they are to your business growth. When you adopt that mindset you are saying that this person is so valuable it is worth the cost of their damage vs. the value that they bring.

That, to me, is the most warped kind of thinking because you are basically saying that this person is irreplaceable and you can’t do without them.

Well remember this: NOBODY is irreplaceable.

Getting the message

When this behavior is allowed, you, as a leader, are not really leading, you are cowering behind the tree and begging, praying, and hoping it will all work out, as opposed to standing up and letting your team or the entire organization that this will not be tolerated.

No prima donna should be allowed to capture your culture by the throat and hold it hostage.  When that is allowed you may as well give in your leader card and start from square 1

We can all think back in our careers and recall these out of control individuals, and hopefully, we had leaders that had a spine and dealt with it. On the other hand, we may have had an organization that was not afraid to deal with it. They would send a message thorough out and would shout from the mountaintop that out of control behavior will not be tolerated.

Either way, we got the message.

Inaction is a decision

When an organization does not stand for ethical behavior, they send a message. When you allow it, you also send a message.  Either way, you are telling the story of the organization.

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The mission and values statement posted on your wall or website should be your North Star. The only way you bring it to life is to act on it each and every day. Inaction IS a decision.

You create more damage when you stand on the sidelines, and by choice, you decide not to interfere Your employees, just as the young lady in this profile, watch all of this, and you damage many employees with your inaction.

When you have these cancers within, are they really worth the headache? It isn’t worth it to stand idly by and let someone tear down what could have taken years to hone into the organizational flavor.

Justifying bullying is total BS

It’s often rationalized by the bully who says, ‘That’s just my style. That is just the way I roll.”  OK, that is all well and good, but that style will deteriorate a workplace in a heartbeat. The end result is that the target of this bullying will eventually transition from a great employee to average performer.

I had a manager tell me one time, “People are such babies these days. C’mon, you just have to suck it up and do your job.” I shot back that his reasoning was BS. You try being the target of repeated demeaning over a period of time and see how that reasoning works.

I am proud of this young lady I mentioned above, and the decision she made. In life you have to evaluate your options. If you can’t change the situation and it has an impact on you mentally, then the decision is yours.

The bottom line this this: YOU are in charge of your life, and do not every allow yourself to be put in a situation where you become the receptor of unethical behavior.

Wanted: A bully-free zone

The problem with organization is that they are afraid to lead in these situations.  So, if you are in a leader’s role, or in HR for that matter, do all that you can to make your workplace a bully-free zone.

When you do, you send a message that says that bullying will not play here regardless of how talented or powerful you are.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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