The HUGE Toll of Workplace Bullying

Does your workplace tolerate bullying of any type? A recent article in USA Today explains that one in three adults has experienced workplace bullying (according to research administered by Zogby International earlier this year for the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI)). I learned a great deal about the WBI’s important work because of this article.

A Short History of the Workplace Bullying Institute

Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie founded their initial campaign against workplace bullying in 1998. In 2002, their campaign became the Workplace Bullying Institute to better reflect the research contribution made to the international fight against workplace bullying. The WBI remains the sole North American nonprofit organization dedicated to the eradication of workplace bullying through education, research, and legislative advocacy.

Key findings of the institute’s 2010 national survey on bullying revealed:

  • 35% of workers have experienced bullying firsthand
  • 62% of bullies are men; 58% of targets are women
  • Women bullies target women in 80% of cases
  • Bullying is four (4) times more prevalent than illegal harassment
  • The majority (68%) of bullying is same-gender harassment

Bullying causes immense personal grief as well as inhibiting employee work performance and work passion. It is all too common that bullying is ignored in organizations. Bullying often takes the form of subtle behaviors over time as opposed to bold actions – so, it can be difficult to gauge if a particular boss or employee is bullying.

Bottom line: if bullying behavior exists in any form in your workplace, you will not maintain a high performance, values-aligned culture!

Organizations are slowly taking heed – as are lawmakers. A July ’10 article in Time magazine highlighted legislative efforts to address workplace bullying.

Two visible efforts to eliminate workplace bullying include:

  • The carefully crafted culture at Netflix (see my post on this organization’s intentional culture). CEO Reed Hastings and his colleagues at Netflix are adamant that they want stunning colleagues, not brilliant jerks. Hastings says that, with jerks, the cost to teamwork is too high! If brilliant jerks are discovered after they’ve been hired, they are offered a severance package and released from employment, quickly.
  • Bob Sutton‘s fabulous – if bold – book, No Asshole Rule. Sutton, a Stanford University professor, did in-depth research on the hard-dollar cost of assholes in the workplace. The numbers will astound you. His advice? Toss ’em. As quickly as you can. Sutton’s newest book, Good Boss, Bad Boss, has garnered top honors among this year’s business literature. In it, he presents specific action steps for bosses to create a safe, humane workplace that enables performance and passion.

Blanchard’s Proven Solution Eliminates Bullying

Our award-winning, proven culture change process provides senior leaders with the tools to eliminate workplace bullying. There are three steps – senior leaders must:

  1. Define their organization’s purpose and values, including clear descriptions of how each value will look like behaviorally. Seek feedback from employees to ensure they contribute to the final purpose & values statement (this also creates buy-in for the new cultural norms).
  2. Clarify performance expectations for every player at every level. Ensure that goals are SMART – specific and measurable, motivating, attainable, relevant, and trackable & timebound. Staff need to know what a good job looks like, and a performance plan with SMART goals does that beautifully.
  3. Hold all staff accountable for both performance and values. Praise and celebrate those performing well while demonstrating valued behaviors. Coach, monitor, and (as needed) replace those who either do not perform well or do not demonstrate desired values.

A vital part of step three above is the creation and administration of a custom values survey, completed by all staff regularly (at least every six months). This survey will gather hard data on the extent to which bosses and employees demonstrate desired valued behaviors. It provides undeniable proof of good and not-so-good citizens.


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