I normally write about positive side of business because I choose to focus on it, however I have come across a few bullies over my years in work and feel a duty to support people who are being bullied at work. I’m writing this as a former victim. The people who have worked with me as their manager may now understand my engagement with them and the latitude I provided to get from A to B, or Z as a discovery experience rather than a micro managed one, in this context.
Bullying has victims and is a crime against humanity
While there may be many reasons for bullying at work I can’t really cover all the potential initiators but the most common one is fear in the aggressor, often about being discovered as a fraud or incompetent person. They need to feel superior and get this by bullying other people to gain the power they lack in their own life. I’m not going to focus on the criminals, but on helping victims identify the experiences that indicate they are the subject of this experience.
If you recognise the following factors in your work experience either contact HR or seek legal employment advice because your experience is not acceptable at any level for any culture or other reason.
There are four aspects to business or workplace bullying;
Isolation is critical for bullying to work if the bully can separate you from other people, become your only point of truth they are able to control your environment and effectively own you. This is quite common in low level leadership (teams, projects) and middle management roles in large organisations. Its a form of deception that encourages the victim to feel they should submit, to their only real friend or supporter. It’s quite insidious because it’s the quickest way to institutionalisation effectively crippling your voice and remove your ability to create, innovate and ultimately have value to your company. As a victim you need to remember for your bully your unimportant, your a means to an end, nothing more. To overcome this, join meetups or social groups in your organisation, get out there and just be yourself. And no matter how alone you feel, find someone else to talk to, isolation is your choice not the bullies.
Having isolated and socially crippled their victims bullies next elevate themselves often by ingratiation with time, special treatment, access all kinds of things this achieves two things, it enforces their position as the voice of truth and then is pushes victims down further by enforcing the idea of reliance on the bully for anything good.
By this point in bullying most of the intimidation is reflective and based on losing special treatment or favour so the victim intimidates themselves and are prisoners of their own perceptions and mind. It’s shocking that people would rather continue with the pain they know than change their situations, yet it is very common. Other intimidation arrives if people show any attempt at change, dreams or independence, usually in the form of the most hurtful or most secret thing shared in confidence with their bully. Another common activity is to deny access on an adhoc basis it keeps the victim unable to settle into a working rhythm. Including them, then not including on emails, holding to account on things they have no control over is a constant flow of bullying activity.
Once Isolated and Elevated, where Intimidation works the next level is Domination, where nothing the victim does is of value, where they must seek constant approval and are totally undermined in the work they do on a daily basis. This is a horrific experience and a form of psychological warfare. It will often take the form of getting the victim to do things outside of their work contract, which in many cases will be on their own time or if during the working day (be wasting time) and if discovered by other senior people be seen to negatively impact their employability.
In one organisation I hired a fantastic group of people, I found out a lot of things after I left.
- One of the team leaders, went to their team and told them he had made the decision to employ them and that they were not appreciated or in fact liked by others – Isolation.
- He made himself the voice of truth for that team using his position after I left to grant favoured status to them – Elevation
- He made it clear that only he could aid their careers – Intimidation
- He then ‘asked’ team members to help him on their own time to help him on his PHd – Domination
Overall one of the most unethical things I have ever heard of in a major corporation. This bully destroyed 12 months of building the team in two months of pure selfishness and bullying.
The impact on the non ‘special people’ was they started looking for new jobs, they are now scattered across the globe. I still regard them as some of my best hires ever and I keep tabs on their careers as for some of them it was their first role after University.
If your experiencing this and have no one else to talk to, message me.