We must end corporate bullying and manipulation
With every coming week, there’s a new article speaking of the importance of employee engagement, creating a solid company culture and keeping everyone happy at work. At surface level, this is absolutely what we need and we should strive to achieve and maintain this. What isn’t being mentioned however is what actually prevents teams from working in harmony. Quite often poor behaviours block progress and in these circumstances, leaders must strive to end corporate bullying and manipulation.
Taking measures to improve the workplace is not enough
Many measures that are taken to improve the working environment are encouraging on paper. For example, After the aims and objectives of a team-building day have been outlined and the time and effort everyone has agreed to invest in it, there is a sense that it really will be worthwhile. But can team culture be changed by taking positive action? Can change only happen by changing people or their behaviours? Poor behaviours are rarely given the attention they need. Efforts instead are placed solely on methodologies to bring teams closer together.
Instead, I believe we should choose to look alongside that with what stops teams working together effectively and tackle those issues too. A big taboo in the corporate world seems to be acknowledging workplace bullies. Whether it’s a petty tyrant or smiling assassin, there seems to be a reluctance to address this. “Oh, we know s/he can be bit awkward and grumpy, it’s just the way s/he is.” – In this way, the bullies continue to rise above those that they are putting down. There is no obvious attempt to end corporate bullying and manipulation.
When authenticity is absent
Authenticity is the most important part of a successful team yet it is often the most absent quality. I remember a while ago, working with a team of directors in the city. A successful company with strong ethics and high people-focus, it turned out that the trusting board members had been unconsciously ‘feeding’ an enemy within – one of their own team.
She put herself forward as key support to the team. She was the ‘go-to’ person who had her finger on the pulse of the business. Yet within a couple of short sessions, it became clear she had actually been covertly pitting team members against each other. Deliberately dismissing the leadership and spreading lies to the workforce. “Well, nothing changes here. The MD is a coward. I’m the only one who cares here, but the board won’t take any action. I put lots of solutions forward, but my colleagues will not change. I’m truly at my wit’s end.”
Too polite to take action
Part of our human problem is that when somebody does something wrong or inappropriate, we often have the response of “oh it must be me” and we, therefore, stifle the niggling feeling, telling ourselves not to make a fuss. After all, it’s better to see the good in everyone right? This “nice” behaviour is exactly what deliberately manipulative people latch on to, and use to fragment teams and individuals to suit their needs. Authenticity is based on the ethos of trusting your own judgement, tapping into your gut instinct, and having the courage to speak up when something doesn’t feel right – instead of just brushing it under the carpet.
How to end corporate bullying and manipulation
This was how the eight-strong team of authentic board members were suddenly very quickly able to see the truth of the situation. A situation to which they had been oblivious for a number of years. They realised how much this one individual was responsible for destabilising their teams and the business, and how much she also damaged customer relations. Suddenly a whole raft of issues and problems became clear. The result? The team pulled together and worked a plan to rectify the situation – which meant continuing the business without her.
By empowering people we can ultimately put an end to corporate bullying and manipulation. Bad behaviours show themselves to be as they are, and people understand they do have a right (in fact a responsibility) to stand up, speak out and question things that don’t make sense. Bad behaviours can no longer hide, and will not be tolerated by people who are authentic in the business. The implication of this for the corporate world is huge. It’s tackling what is rarely dealt with – not by tarring and feathering the bullies, but instead by empowering others to trust themselves.
What we allow will continue
By ignoring a smiling assassin or a bully, we are failing to recognise that situations outlined above will continue to block us from our true potential and ability to work the way we desire. As the saying goes, “what we allow will continue”.
As far as we are concerned, it’s time for people to learn how to shine brightly in their own power. It’s time to shine past the corporate masks, the politics and the double-speak. It’s time to wake up, embrace authentic courage, take back our power and thereby create environments where bullies can no longer exist.
Impossible? Absolutely not. This is a day-to-day reality that is critical to bring in to our workplaces – not maybe, not sometime, but now. Let’s wake up, light up and show we mean business!