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When Good People Do Nothing

When Good People Do Nothing

Does your company allow bullying to occur in your workplace? If so, does your company also promote workplace bullythemselves as a responsible corporate citizen, espouse social responsibility, healthy living, nutrition and exercise, and charitable giving? If you answered yes to both these questions, welcome to Corporate America’s Hall of Contradictions.

Let’s talk about one of those big, nasty, dirty secrets hanging in the Corporate Hall of Contradictions: workplace bullies and the adverse health affects levied on their targets.  Left alone, workplace bullies cause a rolling tide of unjustified terminations, needless resignations, disrupted careers, tormented families, plus excessive and needless medical expenses on their unsuspecting targets.  With limited support, denials and misunderstandings by coworkers and family members, feelings of embarrassment, suicide is sometimes the  eventual self-prescription for targets looking for escape from these ruthless corporate terrorists. Does this sound like corporate social responsibility?

Workplace Bullying Defined

The Workplace Bullying Institute’s definition of workplace bullying is “repeated, health-harming, mistreatment of one or more persons by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:

  • verbal abuse,
  • offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating,
  • work interference – sabotage – which prevents work from getting done.”

Workplace bullying is much more than simple incivility. It goes way beyond rudeness.  The problem is that bullies are quite clever in their attacks.  With limited or no training to deal with ruthless workplace bullies, the executive team rarely comes to the aid of the target.

When Human Resources is Not Humane

Think your human resources department will help?  Think again. Human resource professionals have largely sided with workplace bullies because they lack the fortitude to stand up against tyrants who typically carry political clout inside the organization. Most human resource professionals are more interested in career preservation than upholding a positive and humane corporate culture.  Without a CEO who demands zero tolerance for bullies, the inmates soon take control over the prison, if you know what I mean.

The Health Effects

As a result, the continued abuse leads to health-harming treatment.  According to the 2007 Workplace Bullying Institute – Zogby Survey, 45% of targeted individuals suffer stress-related health problems, which include:

  • Hypertension, strokes and heart attacks
  • Neurotransmitter disruption, hippocampus shrinkage
  • Immunological impairment; more frequent infections of greater severity
  • Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Debilitating anxiety, panic disorders
  • Clinical depression
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder from deliberate human-inflicted abuse
  • Lost ability to be left alone to do the once-loved job

The Career Affects

According to the WBI-Zogby Survey, the future is not very bright for the targets of bullying.  In most cases, the clever corporate terrorist wins, as depicted below:

  • 13% of targets are forced to transfer from their once loved job (a punitive transfer)
  • 24% of targets experience constructive discharge without reasonable cause
  • 40% of targets quit to reverse decline in health and sanity

Take a Stand

If you have a coworker currently encountering a workplace bully, assemble as many employees and managers as possible to calmly and respectfully fight back.  Faced with numbers, a bully will typically back down because deep down they are weak and frightened.  Silence, fear and a culture where employees do not come to the aid of their coworkers is an environment that allows this corporate terrorism to thrive.

If you have a friend or family member who is currently encountering a workplace bully, listen to them and become their advocate.  Encourage them to seek professional help from a qualified counselor who has dealt with workplace bullying cases. At some point a decision will need to be made whether a job change should be made and the target will likely need your objective opinion and guidance during a tumultuous time.

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.”

— Edmund Burke

Kevin Kennemer is founder of The People Group based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Kevin is driven by his passion for company owners and their need to earn a profit, employees' desire for a positive and fulfilling work experience, and the community that benefits when both groups do well.

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