The Toxicity of Workplace Bullies
By Sindy Warren | December 6, 2012
I recently conducted a workplace investigation that was initiated by a couple of employee complaints about a senior manager’s leadership style. This manager was very, very senior. As in close friends with the CEO and a “lifer” at the company. As such, he was widely perceived as untouchable. Thanks to the company’s commitment to a respectful workplace, that soon changed.
During the course of the investigation I interviewed over a dozen witnesses. Some common themes quickly arose. Said manager was terrifying his employees. Screaming, insulting, ridiculing, slamming doors, banging tables, you get the gist. Witnesses cried describing their interactions with the manager. They shared medical issues that arose since working for the manager, such as weight gain, hair loss, and the need for anti-anxiety medication. In one of the most poignant interviews, a witness shared that he crawled into bed every night after work and prayed for the strength to return to work the next day.
The cost of this workplace bullying was clear. There was an almost universal lack of engagement. Employees were actively seeking other employment opportunities. Employees believed the executive management team knew of and sanctioned the manager’s behavior. As a result, legal risks were running high.
The company could have overlooked the behavior. Or made one of these typical excuses: “Oh that’s just how he is; he means no harm.” “It’s easier to keep him than find a replacement.” “We can’t afford to lose him.” Instead, it took action and demonstrated its commitment to respect in the workplace.
What do you think the result was?
Relieved employees, a sense of pride at working somewhere that “did the right thing,” and a big dose of commitment and loyalty to the company. It was a nice reminder that committing to a respectful workplace can pay off, in a big way.
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