Research from Dr. Judy Blando at the University of Phoenix suggests that almost 75% of employees surveyed had been affected by workplace bullying, whether as a target or a witness.
Seth Godin has an excellent piece about workplace bullying. Not the physical kind of bullying but the severe conformity placed on many to adapt and adhere to the underlying culture. While many organizations have lofty statements about ‘diversity’, only infrequently do they embrace a contrarian, a rabble rouser, a truly different person. The message is “We have a nice mix of skin colors, genitalia, and surnames but in your brain, you better think like us.“
When most of us think of bullying, we picture the schoolyard. Yet the office is just as likely to house these tormentors. The primary difference between playground intimidation and office mistreatment is that the professional kind of terror tends to more psychological and verbal in nature. While subtle in form, it still creates as much stress as in the classroom.
Bullying is characterized by:
- Repetition (occurs regularly)
- Duration (is enduring)
- Escalation (increasing aggression)
- Power disparity (the target lacks the power to successfully defend them self)
A particularly insidious form of bullying comes in the shape of Gaslighting. This is the process of manipulating someone by psychological means into questioning their own values. This type of bullying is prominent in organizations with an advocacy mission. Any deviation from accepted dogma can quickly get one branded as intolerant.
Godin has a special contempt for bureaucracies, which by their very nature enforce a strict control over the actions. thoughts and behaviors of employees. He says
It’s easier to keep order in an environment where bullying can thrive (and vice versa), because the very things that permit a few to control the rest also permit bullies to do their work. The bully uses the organization’s desire for conformity to his own ends.
Ask anyone inside a government bureau, a large university or a gigantic corporation. These entities were made for bullies for it’s a rich environment to exert control. In essence, bullies get away with it because the system has rigid demands for conformity. As long as those demands are met, the verbal or psychological abuse is overlooked or de-emphasized.