Archive for the ‘The Basics’ Category

C-Suite Talking Points for HR About Workplace Bullying

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

By Gary Namie, PhD

Assumptions: (1) No anti-bullying initiative can succeed without support from the top. (2) It will be the job of HR to take that message up the ladder.

Here is a list of reasons senior leaders should care. It includes, but is not limited to, the following:

• Workplace Bullying is a costly litigation nightmare. Even though a low proportion of incidents of bullying also have an aspect of discrimination (20%), the public erroneously believes hostile work environment protections apply to everyone. Therefore, too many individuals shop for an attorney willing to either threaten or file a lawsuit or EEOC formal complaint. At the very least, a defense has to be mounted, or settlement paid, or trial and penalty expenses absorbed.

• Recruitment & retention of highly skilled workers undermined. The typical bullying scenario finds the best & brightest targeted for baseless, mindless persecution until they either voluntarily quit or are driven away. This is unwanted, unnecessary and PREVENTABLE turnover.

• A tarnished reputation as one of the “worst places to work” on the street (mainly in social media) follows the expulsion of highly qualified workers. In turn, recruitment is made more difficult.

• Bullying causes stress-related diseases. Allowing it to continue unabated directly contradicts the internal commitments to wellness and employee well being. In fact, research clearly shows the causal role of personalized bullying in cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases, changes in the brain that lead to irreversible behavioral dysfunction that passes for incompetence to the naive observer, life shortening interference with DNA cellular replication, and doubling the rate of suicidal ideation. Why should we allow the health-harming misconduct to continue knowing that our staff and associates are being so severely impaired?

• Because of the health harm, workers affected by bullying — those directly targeted and those witnessing it as coworkers — typically use paid time off disproportionately. They exhaust the allotment taking “mental health” days trying to lessen the distress they feel. In many cases, the absenteeism exceeds PTO because the workers can no longer cope in the environment where they are subjected to abuse. That absenteeism (and presenteeism) eventually precludes productive work. The lean work team comes to resent their absent colleagues and soon experience their own sense of overload.

• To allow bullying to continue with impunity sends the message to internal stakeholders that our workplace culture prizes ruthlessness, abuse, victimization, domination and humiliation of employees. Not exactly the terms posted proudly on our Mission, Vision, Values placards throughout the company. Sustaining bullies contradicts lofty aspirational phrases such as we “respect all individuals,” and any claims to diversity or fairness. Bullying is immoral. The failure to condemn it is understood by employees as condoning it.

• Bullying cannot thrive without executive sponsorship. Yes, dear leaders, you may be contributing to the problem. No one is accused of ordering subordinate managers to willfully harm their work teams. Rather, bullies are skilled manipulators. They are able to bond with supporters, through disingenuous ingratiation over time, so that you come to see them only in a positive light. When they are accused of abusing others, it seems impossible that people so kind and admiring in your presence are capable of what they are accused. In fact, they are the same people: tyrants to those below them in the organization and fawning great folks to those above.

• Constraint vs. Change. On repeat offenders in the past, we have wasted too much money on attempts to change their personalities. Personality, by definition, is stable and constant for adults. Further, long-reinforced habits, however destructive, are ingrained. A better approach is to constrain or limit negative behavior by creating new boundaries which when crossed brand the conduct unacceptable, and therefore, punishable. The teaching of limits and their reinforcement rely on principles of human learning.

• The historical problem is that we (the company, the managers, the system) have inadvertently rewarded bullying. Examples of this type of implicit reward include ignoring complaints, choosing personality clashes as the preferred explanation for events, or not believing the target-complainants. Over time, bullies have no reason to believe they would ever be held accountable because we have not told them they were doing anything wrong or unacceptable.

• To accomplish the goals of constraint and mitigation of negative destructive interpersonal conduct, we have to create new explicit standards and be granted the authority to enforce misconduct that crosses the line. If we cannot show offenders where the expectation is clear that they violated, we lose the moral authority to monitor conduct at all. Further, everyone at all levels of the organization should be made to follow the same standards. No exceptions. Those of you in leadership must be role models.

• Finally, we have to inculcate the newly adopted intolerance of abusive conduct to everyone. The message flows from the top. We need your endorsement, and if you are willing, your participation in education efforts. More important, to sustain the anti-abuse initiative, we need you to support HR’s implementation of the new code and enforcement provisions. Do not interfere in cases involving your personal friends. Please let the system work independently and without political intervention. This is the only way employees come to trust leaders to make their workplaces safe.

• To enable all workers to function free from fear of being abused during the work day is not a luxury. It is a fundamental occupational health and safety issue. And it is the cornerstone to personal psychological safety. Only with this freedom can workers optimize their productivity for employers.

Some of the above points are “safer” to raise than others. Only you can gauge how easily threatened are your executive team members. Most don’t ever want to hear bad news, but they are not leaders. True leaders care very much about everyone in their organization. Find those people and you will save your organization.


We can help. Call WBI. 360-656-6630


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The Worst Kinds of Bosses

Saturday, October 17th, 2015

Eight of the Worst Kinds of Bosses
By Scott Wooldridge, Benefits Pro, Oct. 16, 2015

Bad bosses are, unfortunately, more common than anyone would like. One silver lining, perhaps, is that they are easy to identify. What follows are some general characteristics of bad bosses, taken in part from The Bully at Work, the landmark book by Gary and Ruth Namie, plus some other bad-boss habits that are all too common.

The Screaming Meemie

This boss, as the name suggests, is probably the best-known type of bad boss, but not necessarily the most common.

“It’s the poster child of bullying,” says Frank Mulcahy, manager of business development at the Workplace Bullying Institute — which was founded by the Namies. This type of boss berates and belittles employees. “They intimidate to instill fear … they scream to mask their own incompetence,” Mulcahy says. “They’ll even invade personal space.” He points to former basketball coach Bobby Knight as an example of this type of behavior.

The Constant Critic

A much more common type of bad boss is this type — who may not act out as much, but who still works to destroy confidence. The constant critic does just that; always finding fault with a worker, regardless of whether the criticism is justified.

“[The work] is never going to be good enough,” Mulcahy says. “It’s very demoralizing.” He notes that the Constant Critic does a lot of damage in one-on-one settings, which provide more deniability.

The Two-Headed Snake

“The most prevalent type of a bully is the Two Headed Snake,” Mulcahy says. “This is the Jekyll and Hyde, passive-aggressive back-stabber.” Mulcahy said this type of manager (the type can also be a co-worker) manages his or her image for higher-ups, but turns into a bully for workers under his control. “It’s all about controlling the target’s reputation, starting rumors or even failing to stop rumors.”

The Gatekeeper

The Gatekeeper blocks resources, controls communications, or changes schedules to exert power over a worker. “They withhold the resources needed to get the job done,” Mulcahy said. “Or they say, ‘I know it’s your day off, but I need you to do this.’” “It always comes when they know somebody has to be somewhere.” The Gatekeeper is another type of bully that can be either a manager or a co-worker.

The Micromanager

Not all bad bosses are bullies — some just don’t have a good grasp on how to most effectively work with their team. A common case is the micromanager, who thinks they have to monitor every decision point for every project. This very common type of manager can drive workers crazy. There can be some hope that bosses will eventually “unlearn” this behavior, but until they do, the employees under them are likely to dread the sound of their manager’s approach.

The Recluse

The Recluse is the opposite of the Micromanager. According to Cam Marston, author and founder of Generational Insights, there is an entire cohort of Gen-X managers who grew up as latchkey kids and consider working solo, with little or no supervision or collaboration, to be the ideal way to get things done. These managers give orders to underlings, go back to their offices and shut the door, satisfied that the workers are happy to be left alone to do their job. In fact, many workers feel confused and abandoned by this approach.

The Workaholic

This type of boss never seems to stop working, texting and/or emailing on the weekends or late at night, making you feel guilty for having any personal time at all. The recent firestorm stirred by reports that was driving its employees to work all hours and become “Amabots” in their search for perfection is an example of committing to a workaholic lifestyle.

Perhaps it works for Amazon. For many employees at other companies, it won’t.

The Slacker

Another polar opposite, the Slacker sits on the other end of the spectrum of the Workaholic. This boss typically has some connection to top management that allows him to coast along, even though he is often not at work or tends to fall behind on projects.

The Slacker’s team runs a real risk of being blamed for late or incomplete work, even when it’s their manager who’s not getting the job done. Unlike the Recluse, the Slacker is not likely to have a basic level of competency — he is just overmatched in his job.


Contact Frank Mulcahy at 713.545.2222 to discuss solutions for your organization

Read the Namies’ book written for employers, The Bully-Free Workplace, seeking to end abusive conduct inside their organizations.


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