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Reflection – Rachel Elkington

by on November 16, 2007

Never Tolerate A Bully

Today’s video touched on a topic that is near and dear to my heart: the unacceptability of bullying in the workplace. In the video, the person describing a situation was a partner in a business. One of the other partners in the business was a known bully, however, he had been tolerated because he was very talented and contributed heavily to the profitability of the company. The person describing the situation received a call one day from the father of an employee who stated unequivocally that his son was being verbally abused by the bully partner. At that point, Kevin stopped the video and allowed us to discuss what we would do if we were in the shoes of the partner who received the call. All of us gave our answers – some very creative ones among them – and then Kevin allowed the video to play out. In real life, the company decided to expel the bully partner immediately. I was very surprised by this reaction, and very encouraged. Frankly, I think it is fantastic that the company decided to draw the line about what is acceptable behavior.

Fred’s book review touched on a similar topic. He reviewed the book “The No Asshole Rule.” Although I haven’t read the book myself, I was impressed with the main argument of the book as Fred relayed it:

“Dr. Sutton’s main point of view is that assholes poison work environments. He defends this argument by breaking down the negative impact that assholes have on other people such as making people feel inferior or stupid or humiliated. He explains how when no action on behalf of management is taken to stop such negative behavior that it is more likely to spread in an organization because when tolerated, such behavior unintentionally becomes part of the organization’s culture.”

It seems intuitive to me that bullying or emotional abuse in the workplace would be bad for the bottom line. When people are experiencing strong negative emotions, it becomes difficult to perform a job well. Fear may keep a person on track for a certain amount of time, but adrenaline eventually gives way to burnout. If an entire organizational culture was accepting of bullying, I would suspect that organization would either have trouble with sustained performance, turnover, or both. According to http://career-advice.monster.com/conflict-management/Workplace-Bullying-What-Can-You-Do/home.aspx “It often costs a company tens of thousands of dollars to recruit, hire and train a new employee to replace a bullied worker who left.”

I found a resource for people who feel bullied at work: http://www.bullyinginstitute.org/
This website gives statistics on bullying in the workforce. One of the more interesting statistics it stated was that far and away most of the bullying people experience at work comes from their boss. Assuming for a moment, that that is a correct statistic, I have to pause a moment and just reflect on what a shame that is. The most important relationship a person has at work is with their boss. That relationship defines the experience of working in a place, I would argue at least as much as the work itself.

According to http://www.bullyinginstitute.org/res/2003toc.html bullying can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Acute Anxiety, and other health problems. With that in mind, it seems that we should all take a stand against bullying and do our part to stop it whenever we can.

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