I’ve been reading Steve Jobs biography and have compared what I’ve learned so far in the book to what I know about his career. I’ve been pondering two powerful insights:
- Jobs was a passionate genius for well-designed tools and for making those tools available to everyone
- Periodically, Jobs was a complete bully, prone to yelling, name-calling, and put-downs
Jobs’ successes (and misses) are well documented. I wonder just how much more productive and creative Jobs’ staff would have been had Steve created a positive, healthy workplace that did not tolerate bullying of any kind, from anyone, at any level in the organization.
I am a huge proponent of creating high performance AND values-aligned workplaces. Where there is a safe workplace, activity may be frantic, but people treat each other with respect.
I admire the work of the Workplace Bullying Institute; they conduct research on the impact of workplace bullying and educate others about those issues. In a recent article for the International Journal of Communication, WBI founder Dr. Gary Namie and colleague Dr. Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik describe the “communal character” of workplace bullying. Their research found that witnesses to workplace bullying have a choice: they can 1) do nothing, which inspires more bullying in the workplace, or 2) raise the issue with key players to ensure the bullying stops quickly.
“Low”-lights From The Findings
- Nearly 25% of respondents report being bullied at some time in their careers. In the US, the number is 36%.
- In the US, over 49% were either targets of bullying or witnessed it.
- In 72% of the cases, bullying was done by someone who ranked higher in the organization than the targets.
- Solo harassers are the source of bullying 1/3 of the time. 2/3 of the time, there are multiple harassers.
- In the case of solo harassers, 60% of the time there is organizational tolerance of the bullying (lack of response from senior leaders, the harasser’s peers, HR, and even the target’s peers).
- When bullying was reported, the situation was resolved only 31% of the time.
- When bullying was reported, NOTHING HAPPENED 45% of the time.
Three Steps to a Bully-Free Workplace
You will never create an inspiring, safe work environment if you tolerate bullying. If you are serious about eliminating bullying, follow these steps:
- Make the choice to create a high performing, values-aligned workplace. Leaders must decide together to no longer tolerate bad behavior from anyone (including themselves). Once leaders decide that their company culture needs to be a safe, inspiring place of contribution and creativity, the next steps are easier to put into place.
NOTE: NOT deciding to create a safe workplace IS A DECISION to enable and tolerate a less-than-safe workplace.
- Create clear standards and expectations for both performance and values. Most organizations have performance standards reasonably well-defined and valued behaviors not defined at all. You need to describe tangible, observable, and measurable expectations for performance AND values, for all players, top to bottom.
- Hold all staff accountable for both performance and values. You have systems in place to measure performance, progress towards key metrics, etc. You need to create systems to equally measure the demonstration of desired valued behaviors. Gather that data and 1) praise those that exceed standards for BOTH performance and values and 2) coach and redirect those that miss standards in EITHER performance and values. If, after coaching, folks miss the mark in either, lovingly SET THEM FREE.
Put these three steps into place and enjoy the significant shift to the high performance, values-aligned culture you desire.
What is your experience with workplace bullying? Share your insights in the comments section below.
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