Workplace Bullying

I wrote a post about bullying back in January centered about bullying in school.  The thing is bullying happens throughout our lives.  I was swapping stories with my spouse about work and reflected on bullying.  My wife is an engineer who is being placed in a management role within a highly competitive male-oriented environment.  She not only has to fight a constant battle of being accepted as a valued part of the team being a woman, a mother and an engineer but also the bullying that happens in the management circles.  Some managers think saying some of the following things are motivational, but they are simply carry overs from adolescent bullying.

  • “I want to hear a can-do attitude.”
  • “I don’t want to hear ‘it’s hard’ to get the job done.”
  • “I don’t want to hear ‘that’s how we’ve always done it.”
  • “If you want you’re job, you will . . .”
  • “If you like getting a steady paycheck, you should . . .”
  • Igniting a 2 inch gas pipeline on fire in a safety class and say “If you want to be an engineer you’ll do it.”

These are the prepubescent power struggles that some people carry into adulthood.  And, as luck would have it they become our boss or coworker turning them into our personal petty tyrant. Bullying can take the form of coercion and threats, intimidation, emotional abuse, isolation, denying validity, blaming, economic abuse or privilege of rank, gender or experience.  Whatever the bullying approach, it’s critical we recognize it, seek information about how to deal with it and take some action as appropriate.

As stated in the post, Bullies are a Gift, “those who attempt to put us down or in our place by whatever means are a blessing in disguise.  They simply provide feedback and motivation if we choose to see it that way.”  Here’s the essence of the situation, its up to us to focus our attention on what is important instead of the childish power struggles many are still struggling with.  In our careers, what’s important is to help the organizations we work for achieve the vision they set out to do.  That’s why we took the job in the first place.  If we get fired or laid off because we didn’t succumb to the pressures of the bullies who may be in power, it is a better in the long run for our personal business.  Do we want to ruin our daily lives putting up with juvenile behavior?  Do we want to sacrifice our happiness so we can keep a paycheck coming in?  Sometimes we have to. Every situation is different.  We may have a job without which we couldn’t survive.  The thing is, it is up to us to spend the energy to find a new job that better suits the biz of you.  It’s up to us to find a position where we can feel like we make a positive influence.  It’s also up to us to recognize when we are bullied and do something about it.  We may have to simply be patient.  We may have to find another job or we may have an opportunity to help the bully understand how their behavior isn’t helping them, their situation or their own job security. Bullying does not fit in with where this world is going.  Bullying is one of the things that goes against the more empathetic approaches that will make individuals, teams and organizations successful in the future.

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