This post initiates a series regarding workplace stress that is created, not encountered.
Stress that is encountered is not preventable by an individual or company: the downturn in the economy that causes restructuring, or the cyclical nature of a product that causes a 'feast or famine' work environment of extreme overtime and frantic order fulfillment followed by layoffs. This stress may be acute or chronic. Either way, it requires that we find ways to reduce or manage stress to the best of our ability as individuals in order to avoid the physical, emotional and psychological consequences of stress. The workshops I offer deal with this type of stress.
A created stressor is one that is preventable, perhaps predictable, and certainly manageable, but not by the individual employee. This stressor impacts not just one individual, but many, and the only way to minimize or eliminate it is for the employer to be proactive. I'm talking about the bullying manager.
How bullies land positions of leadership and management is a quandary. One would think that at the bare minimum, if a person is entrusted to manage people, that person would have people skills. Further, if a person is known to be a bully, it is inconceivable that a company would allow the bully continued access to victims, as Workplace Bullying [is] Emerging As Major Employment Liability Battleground.
My work is about limiting the damage stress inflicts, so these posts will not focus on the responsibility of the employers. I want to explore the intricacies of what constitutes workplace bullying, what the mental and physical consequences of bullying may be, what the costs are to employees and employers alike, and ultimately what can be done about it.
How to Spot a Bully
There is a high probability that every body not only knows who their resident bully is, but he/she has been reported to HR for inappropriate behavior. Who are they? They are the bullies from preschool, grade school, high school and college. As long as they get away with reprehensible behavior, they will continue. They will be the bullies of retirement villages.
They are not people who have just had a bad day and lost their temper once. They are not just demanding bosses who lack a few interpersonal relationship skills, nor are they managers who have to take a hardline on slacker employees. Bullies are identifiable by consistent, crazy-making behavior: they are constantly over everyone's shoulder micro-managing to the nth degree; they use tactics like isolation, invalid criticism, constantly changing expectations, and unrealistic deadlines; they prohibit adequate training opportunities, but then scream or humiliate if the self-directed training is inadequate. Simply put, these people abuse power. They are not managing, they are damaging.
Employers can recognize bullies in a managerial position by an overabundance of disciplinary actions, increased number of sick days by employees under that manager, requests for transfers, high rate of turn over and failure to meet organizational goals.
Considering 41.4% of US workers in one study reported being bullied, there is a good chance that you or someone you know works for (or is) a bully. Corporate/Institutional bullying "...occurs when bullying is entrenched in an organization and becomes accepted…" In some instances, it may not be the company culture, but has become the norm within a division or department. Whether it is one bully, a team of bullies, or a systemic bullying corporate culture, real damage is done to companies, people and families. Shots In The Dark: "Murder By Proxy" Takes On The History Of Workplace Violence explores the role workplace bullies have in workplace homicides, and suicide is often cited as a consequence of bullying as people struggle to cope.
With these serious considerations in mind, we will continue the series with precisely how the bullied employee is affected physically.
Workplace Bullying-Managing or Damaging? Part 2-The Effect of Bullying