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.
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.