October 19th, 2011

To Stop Workplace Bullying — Sponsors Must Cut Bullies Loose


Memo to Executives: Let the Bully Go, Boost the Bottom Line

Bob is the proverbial bully (Bobette when a woman). He operates freely without risk of being punished or terminated. So, every week is Freedom Week for bullies. Since Bob is free 52 weeks a year, dear executive, please use this one week, Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week, to end your relationship with Bob that makes life miserable for everyone else except you and Bob. It will take courage, of course. Here’s why and how to do it.

Bullies torment and abuse others with impunity. They do so because they have spent months, even years, groveling at the feet of a higher-ranking sponsor. That is, they torment down the org chart, but ingratiate (brown nose, ass kiss) up the ladder. All of their time is spent managing their sponsor’s impression of them. While targets keep their noses to the grindstone doing the work they love, the nose of bullies hover near the rear ends of their chosen sponsors. That’s how Bob makes himself indispensable.

On balance, several people have tried to tell you about Bob before. You didn’t believe them. They brought you news about Bob you couldn’t stand to hear. It hurt you to hear, but they were reporting the emotional abuse Bob foisted on them. You had several fired for daring bring this information to you. Others quit out of desperation. Bob convinced you that they all were faulty and he alone is competent.

If you ask anyone other than Bob about the talent lost to your organization, you will find that Bob has been lying to you. Good people were driven out or were demoralized and dehumanized, then left. All of this was kept from you by Bob. In his narcissistic world, only he mattered.

Truth is, Bob has been too expensive to keep. You’ve paid dearly to retain him — lawsuits settled, turnover and replacement of key players, and lots of lost productivity. Just ask your Risk Manager or legal counsel.

So, there is no rational reason to keep Bob any longer. You may worry about a lawsuit from him if you begin to suddenly hold him accountable. Worry less. Take advantage of the “employment at will” principle. He’s gone when you say he’s gone. Will he survive? Yes, he will land on his feet. With that instant stroke of moral courage, you will send a message to all others who work with you that you care more about them than you care about the single person whose lips have been firmly planted on your behind.

And while you are motivated to change the work climate for the better, besides removing Bob, consider drawing a line in the sand, defining the boundaries of unacceptable conduct. With that commitment, you will have a behavioral standard to which all the future Bobs (and there will be many emerging in the future — think whack-a-mole) can be compared. When they fail to act in an acceptable manner, cut them before the losses mount.

Finally, in the future, long after Freedom Week ends, believe the employees who report to you that they have been subjected to abusive conduct. They are not the likely liars. Bullies are the liars. Grow a thicker skin and stop showing your neediness to the cruel people willing to exploit you as they subordinate others.

Good employers purge bullies; bad ones promote ‘em.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 at 12:44 pm and is filed under Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Tutorials About Bullying. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.



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  1. Jay Jacobus says:

    Some executive see their employees in a negative light. They think that they have trick, cajol and intimidate employees. They only hear the bad things said about employees and they think that any good that an employee does comes from ulterior motives.

    These executives will not heed the cries of targets and victims. To them vicitims are cry babies, complainers, lazy, money hungry and worthless.

    How deep is executive cynicism? I have yet to see a hand outstretched to help any victim.

    Please inform me of any good samaritans in the executive ranks.

  2. kachina says:

    Note to sponsors- Targets know exactly how outlandish their accusations sound…and have likely edited the more unbelievable and bizarre portions of the narrative in anticipation of being disbelieved and dismissed!

  3. TwilightZone says:

    Excellent memo, and the cartoon had me in stitiches! If only Bob and Bobette the brownnosing bullies could see how ridiculous they look!

  4. Michelle says:

    I used to work for a Bobette. Until, of course, she fired me via email, then hired her cousin to fill my position, one for which she is not qualified. This boss told me that she didn’t think I had enough “grace” to handle it if she hired a manager above me and instead would feel slighted if I weren’t promoted. She also held it over my head that I had applied for another position (a step up) at another company, and then basically did everything but outright say I wasn’t qualified for it. In the almost 5 years that I was there, she went through easily 15 people, while every other department in the company let go maybe one or two in that same period. Most people, even other executives, know she’s the common denominator, but sadly the majority are too cowardly themselves to do anything about it.

  5. ethompson says:

    Wow! You are one angry guy – not that I blame you. I was a target at my workplace for 5 years, supervisors did nothing (except encourage)about the bully’s behavior, one day I left my doctor’s office with a note excusing me from work for a week(stress) and as I drove home I looked at that note in my hand and I got ANGRY. I decided I was not going to take it anymore – long story short, I stood up for myself – but I didn’t holler,swear or otherwise “create a scene” – I simply held my head up, put a smile on my face and laughed at the bully every time she spoke to me. It wsn’t easy – she’s still there (as am I) but my immediate supervisor retired – the bully’s “best friend” found another job and now she has nobody to “back up” her behavior. I am still actively seeking employment elsewhere but…..there’s something to be said for standing up for yourself.
    But always remember – we are targets NOT victims, we did nothing to cause this behavior and there is something very empowering about holding one’s head high :)

  6. KastleBravo, What I missed in the first reading of your first post your use of the royal “we” near the end. “We’re all too nice here.” You give it away that you, too, have been targeted and it led you to change tactics. And I’m glad you did. Future potential bullies will not get under your skin or control you. You may be fired for your “insubordination” (read: insistence on personal dignity), but you will leave with your dignity intact, by gawd. That’s the key.

    Kudos to you for showing who you really are. Thanks for that. Some idiots may read into this that you were a bully and your recantation is proof that bullies can be reasoned with. However, you were a target and decided to step out of the crosshairs.

    Way to go. And thank you.

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