Like the aftermath of the passing by of King Kong or Godzilla, the corporate bully leaves behind in their passing a certain level of wreckage to those who are unfortunate to be caught in the path.
As children, bullies on the playground cause fear, anxiety and resentment to their victims, some for many years and still others well into adulthood. Much like the childish playground fear monger, corporate bullies – those who micromanage, yell, rant, intimidate and abuse their charges in the name of motivation – create an environment so toxic that it often debilitates the whole of the organization. We’re all aware of the celebrated antics of Steve Jobs and other notable leaders of mega-successful ventures whose abrasive management style was seen as setting a higher bar for organizational excellence, as if to declare their actions as acceptable because the results ultimately validated the methods. But as with many standards of acceptable behavior and methods, the difference between achieving a status of visionary as opposed to one as a bully is separated by a very narrow delineation between unacceptable and acceptable personal conduct.
According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, approximately one in four U.S. workers say they’ve been bullied on the job and the intended targets of the workplace torment aren’t the only casualties of the phenomenon. A new study by Canadian researchers, suggests that co-workers who witness bullying are also traumatized by the abusive antics and are as likely to be victims themselves and are more likely to look for a new job to escape their abusive environment. In this economy, corporations are exerting considerable time and resources addressing the problem of employee retention, looking for ways to incentivize their best workers and contribute to the goals and objectives of the corporate vision. Accepting and suffering the conduct of the organizational bullies runs counter to the long-term stated performance goals of most companies.
But in many instances, bullies are earning positive performance reviews, at least in the short-term, where such behavior produces short-term results, but in the longer span of time the collective wreckage caused by the abuse mounts to levels that become detrimental to success, for both the bully and the organization. For a time, some bad actors are able to survive and thrive because their employers and managers fail to focus enough attention to the problem and still more bullies are allowed to keep abusing colleagues because their bosses aren’t aware of their behavior, either because it goes unreported or because the bullies are good at covering over their abusive tactics.
Establishing an environment free of such abusive behavior requires instituting a policy where the personal behavior and motivational methods of managers and executives are equally as celebrated as achieving the organization’s vision and performance goals. Failing to effectively address the negative conduct of the organization’s bullies will lead to a corporate culture punctuated by anger, fear and resentment – one that will most likely produce more numerous letters of resignation than greater levels of positive results.