June 13th, 2014

Himmer: Workplace bullying and emotional intelligence

By Richard P. Himmer, an Emotional Intelligence Consultant and Affiliate of the Workplace Bullying Institute. He is conducting research for his dissertation and will soon be soliciting for volunteers to be part of the study. He can be reached at EQMicroSkills.com.

For many employees, going to work each day requires all their strength — not because they are physically challenged, but because they have a bully in their life. Fifty-two percent of a target’s day is spent avoiding the bully. Workplace bullying is described as psychological terror and it continues to escalate.

In 1996, 75 percent of surveyed organizations said they had no bullying in their organization, executives in sum denied that it existed. In a recent 2014 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) more than 65 million American workers are affected by what is called the American Cancer and public awareness is 72 percent.

According to Dr. Gary Namie (cofounder of WBI), the three verticals with the highest percentage of bullying are government, medicine and education. Ironically, the solution for each is Emotional Intelligence (EI). As school is coming to an end for many students this summer, here are some statistics and information to consider on both EI and workplace bullying.

In a study on children who received EI training from preschool through high school, 50 percent of the children showed improved academic scores; 38 percent improved their GPA; suspensions dropped by 44 percent; and other disciplinary action dropped by 27 percent. At the same time attendance rose and 63 percent of the students demonstrated significantly more positive behavior.

Principals with high EI experience more cooperation from teachers, trust is higher, and there is a correlation to higher student scores. The dark side of the equation is that principals, teachers and even superintendents with low EI experience lower scores, low trust levels, and greater misbehavior.

I am currently writing my dissertation on the Effect of Emotional Intelligence on Workplace Bullying and recently attended the Workplace Bullying University in Bellingham, Wash. Drs. Ruth and Gary Namie have been studying, researching and documenting workplace bullying since 1996 when Ruth was bullied at work. Their lives have not been the same since.

My initial research was aimed at the targets. Who are they? Why are they targeted? A target is intelligent, often popular, sometimes shy, and avoids conflict. Targets are usually in a lower position of power and unable to defend against the terror inflicted on them by the bully. Targets do not engage in disrespect, bravado and bluster. For reasons too twisted to review here, bullies respect people who do.

Targets are people who cannot or will not defend themselves. This is not a weakness, only a reality. Bullying is an unwanted assault. You might be a Target if …

• You feel like throwing up the night before you start your work week.

• Your frustrated family demands that you stop obsessing about work at home.

• You feel too ashamed of being controlled by another person.

• All your paid time off is used for “mental health breaks” from the misery.

• Days off are spent exhausted and lifeless, your desire to do anything is gone.

• Your favorite activities and fun with family are no longer appealing.

• Surprise meetings are called by your boss with no results other than further humiliation.

• Everything your tormentor does is arbitrary and capricious.

• You are constantly interrupted at work and never left alone.

• HR tells you to “work it out between yourselves.”

In the most recent study, .5 percent (½ of 1 percent) of all participants surveyed admitted they were bullies, yet 20 to 30 percent of American workers are affected by bullying. In real numbers, approximately 9.8 million workers are currently experiencing bullying at work by 74,000 bullies. This means that each bully is responsible for 132 direct targets. It doesn’t add up because … bullies don’t admit or see themselves as bullies.

Their behavior is irrational and insidious. HR and executives often think putting a target in the same room with his/her bully will solve the problem. It is a recipe for disaster. It doesn’t work. It compromises the target and the story can become twisted so far that the target will be labeled as the bully when they exit the meeting.

Richard will be presenting free seminars on Emotional Intelligence and Workplace Bullying on July 11, July 25, Aug. 29, and Sept. 5 in Gig Harbor, WA. Go to Facebook.com/eqmicroskills for more information.


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