What workplace bullying really costs – targets, colleagues, bullies, and the organisation

Due to tech errors please find ALL of last weeks posts below in one article.

1. The effect of bullying on the target
The most accurate description that I’ve read about what bullying does to a target I found in “Workplace Bullying Symptoms and Solutions” Edited by Noreen Tehrani 2012
From “Healing the wounded soul” a chapter by Marie-France Hirigoyen
Whilst important, the fear of unemployment may not be the primary reason for a target’s submissive behaviour. Bullying managers. … constantly seek power, consciously or unconsciously using perverse tactics to cause the victims to feel psychologically bound, controlled, and unable to respond. The target is disrespected, abused, put under pressure, scolded, watched, or timed, causing them to feel a need to maintain a constant state of vigilance. Typically, employees will not be given the appropriate information or support to enable them to change this situation, leaving them cornered and deprived of the ability to think rationally about their situation and causing them to accept the unacceptable, incapable of confronting the unreasonable behaviour. Targets frequently describe the difficulties they experience in trying to concentrate when in close proximity to their tormentor. These problems in thinking and the inability to focus lead to impairment in their work …

Targets may be told that they are responsible for what happens to them; it is they that have a problem. Targets can become paralysed by contradictory instructions; they are criticised for being ineffective whilst not having the means to perform their work or facing blocks put in the way of them being able to achieve their goals. Targets may be given impossible tasks, conflicting orders, and unreasonable deadlines. When confronted by this situation, they can find themselves paralysed, unable to react, with family, friends, and therapists coming to believe that they are complicit in their suffering. … Bullied targets feel ashamed of being bullied and of their inability to respond appropriately. The loss of self-esteem and self-confidence causes them to doubt their own feelings and to begin to believe they may be responsible for the situation. The hostility makes it impossible for them to distinguish what is normal and what is not, what comes from their frailty, and what has been caused by the tormentor’s destructive behaviour. Targets dream of being rehabilitated, hoping for an acknowledgment or recognition of the bullying behaviour. Rather than any wish for revenge, they want the apology that will never come. …

If the bullying continues for several months or years, the body’s resistance begins to wear out, giving way to a permanent state of anxiety which is constantly reactivated by the repeated bullying attacks. The constant state of intense stress can cause a generalised anxiety disorder characterised by permanent apprehension and anticipation, anxious ruminations, permanent tension, and hypervigilance. Often this will be accompanied by severe depressive states, which the target may attempt to hide from family, friends, and their doctor. …Targets are depressed not because of any prior vulnerability or fragility but rather because the bullying has affected their self-esteem, causing them to feel worthless and hopeless. These depressive states need to be recognised early as there is a high risk of suicide in targets of bullying. … in France, there has been a very high rate of work-related suicides: 58 suicides Telecom between 2007 and 2009 (Guardian) 2009). However, the main investigations have been to look at the personal circumstances of the workers rather any meaningful examination of the working environment as an explanation of these tragic events.”
Those workers who manage to move out of their perpetrator’s reach still risk PTSD. I hope that anyone reading this would be horrified, horrified enough to intervene?
#anewnormal #workplacebullying #bullying #bullyingawareness #bullyingprevention
2. The effect of bullying on colleagues (of the target)
Again from “Workplace Bullying Symptoms and Solutions” Edited by Noreen Tehrani 2012
“Healing the wounded soul” a chapter by Marie-France Hirigoyen
Denial of the reality of bullying
As bullying is difficult to quantify, people attempt to construct rational explanations to explain its occurrence. Perpetrators will refuse to accept that their behaviour is bullying, asserting that the target is incompetent, fragile, or oversensitive and that in these circumstance, their ‘firm’ behaviour is reasonable and appropriate. Faced with this kind of denial, targets will try to understand what they have been doing wrong. …Targets will continue to seek logical explanations, even when the bullying is clearly a phenomenon independent of them. They feel isolated and ashamed of what has happened to them while their tormentor will be seen as innocent of any inappropriate behaviour. This feeling of responsibility is reinforced by observers and bystanders who may become confused by the situation and unable to provide non-judgemental support, frequently commenting or advising inappropriate actions. Once this one-sided, destructive process is underway, only a radical change of approach from one of the protagonists can bring it to a close. However, in a crisis, behaviours tend to become intensified and fixed, with rigid organisation becoming more rigid, aggressive individuals more aggressive, and depressed employees more depressed. …

For many observers, the saying that there is no guilt without fault is applied. How can colleagues begin to understand what is happening when they cannot recognise the reality of the aggression? Colleagues find themselves too embarrassed or fearful to become involved in providing support for the target to engage in looking for ways to resolve the situation.”

If I could put a sign up in EVERY workplace, it would say ‘EVERYONE should be treated with dignity & irrespective of performance’ – if a manager cannot control their own behaviour, why are they being trusted to manage anything! Also, bystanders, by remaining passive, are just telling the bully that they too are bullyable. I know intervention is hard, but if someone in your workplace started punching a colleague, I hope that someone would intervene, so why not intervene when someone is being screamed out or humiliated? I’m just trying to evolve behaviours at work – that’s all. #anewnormal #workplacebullying #bullying #bullyingawareness #bullyingprevention

3. The Bullies
As above, “Perpetrators will refuse to accept that their behaviour is bullying, asserting that the target is incompetent, fragile or oversensitive and that in these circumstance their ‘firm’ behaviour is reasonable and appropriate.” I think that statement is accurate for the minority of perpetrators who are honest. Most are not – as the more seriously bullying, as an issue is taken, the more likely it is that perpetrators will lie and or try to hide what they have done. This is also true concerning bullying because the target has protected characteristics. Take racism; for example, I’ve had a number of cases whereby I thought that the reason someone was being placed in a capability procedure was due to their race. Still, the perpetrators were very careful to conceal this. A couple of cases took the threat of employment tribal to bring the management back to negotiate a settlement agreement. In such cases, I take this as an admission of incompetence on the employer’s part. During the employer’s procedures, it was obvious what was going on. HR should have called it, and management should have dealt with their management problem. Undealt with – leaves the issue to grow as perpetrators start to believe there are no consequences.

Returning to our bully – I disagree with the chapter in “Workplace Bullying Symptoms and Solutions” “Coaching abrasive leaders: contradictory tales of the Big Bad Wolf” Laura Crawshaw
“I have interviewed more than 1000 co-workers over the past 20 years and identified a wide variety of behaviours including, but not limited to shouting, swearing, making threats, publicly demeaning others, over control (micromanagement), intimidation, and condescension, all characterised by the common denominator of disrespectful conduct. … Abrasive leader’s reactions to the lengthy, highly detailed lists of negative perceptions reinforced my initial impression of their blindness to the emotions of others. As these blinders came off, the leaders voiced shock and bewilderment at the nature and degree of the perceived destructive impact on co-workers: ‘I can’t believe that people think I’m out to get them. I’m just trying to get the job done.”

In my experience, most bullies know what they are doing – the payoff IS the emotional reactions of their targets – of course, they are not going to admit that. Often you can trace their bullying practices back to childhood by their language – Donald Trump being a prime example. To weed out the ignorant or emotionally incompetent applicants for management positions, should be set emotional intelligence tests. No applicant with any history of not being able to manage their own behaviour should be promoted into a management position – to do so risks damaging the organisation.

I have represented bullies who were union members, and they have fooled me. I believed them when they told me they were not aware of their behaviour. I believed them when they told me they would never repeat their ‘mistakes.’ Only to discover later that they were bullying again, only now they were selecting even more vulnerable workers – presumably on the assumption that they would be less likely to complain! Coaching bullies can result in more careful bullies. 
#anewnormal #workplacebullying #bullying #bullyingawareness #bullyingprevention
4. Effect on the organisation
Lower morale, lower output, loss of talent due to sick leave, loss of talent as workers decide that life is too short and the pay too low – to have to put up with abusive behaviour. I am waiting for someone to record a manager having a tantrum – that could be a game-changer as far as screaming and shouting is concerned – I AM NOT encouraging anyone to record conversations at work as that could count as a breach of confidence and GDPR. Still, if and when it happens, I’d be interested in the impact on the organisation.

I think organisations should, in their policies, demonstrate what is and is not acceptable behaviour – use case studies for mandatory management training – so no manager can then claim they did not know what acceptable behaviour is and is NOT. The first rule for managers – IRRESPECTIVE of performance EVERYONE has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. I know managers who have had to sack people. Yet, those people still liked that manager – the difference being that the manager ALWAYS treated the worker with dignity and respect. Organisations need to remember that the first duty of their managers is to protect their organisation’s reputation.

Bullying can also be a tactic, covering illegal activity, fiddling expenses, not following established practices or government regulations. I’m waiting for my updated “Snakes in Suits” as I think it might have something to say about the behaviours that facilitated 2008’s financial crash!

#anewnormal #workplacebullying #bullying #bullyingawareness #bullyingprevention

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