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The Bullied Organization

IDoors  had a chance to chat with blog buddy GL Hoffman (of Jobdig fame) recently.  I've been talking a lot about workplace bullying recently, and since he's in the business of placing people in jobs, his opinions and observations seem perfect for finding out about companies where bullying runs rampant.

CF:  In what kinds of organizations do you see more bullying?

GL:  I think organizations that MAY be more prone, and this is generalizing a lot here, would be male and those organizations that are more locker-room oriented (language-wise, comparison with one another, etc.)

CF:  Are there certain industries or kinds of companies where you've seen these behaviors?

GL:  Maybe sales organizations.  They tend to bully those who can't keep up.

CF:  We've both seen leaders drive the culture of the company.  In looking at the culture, what are some of red flags for identifying a bullying organization?

GL:  Biggest characteristic would be a lack of respect throughout the company, from the smallest detail to the biggest.  And that would be the focus of my attempts at "fixing" the environment.

CF:  If you are dealing with a bullying organization, how do you approach prospective job placement applicants?

GL:  I think I would make sure my candidate is tougher, more thick skinned, and very self assured.

Thanks, GL, for shedding some light on this tough subject, and you are right:  it's very hard to generalize since each company is different.  It's obvious your insights and experience are pretty valuable in this field.  From my observations, besides sales organizations (which focus on fast-paced results), I've also seen companies on the opposite end of the spectrum (low accountability and unpredicatable results) succeed in bullying as well.  Their employees just seem to have more time on their hands to get caught up in drama and think about these kinds of games.

So... what are YOUR observations about companies where "free range bullying" is allowed and encouraged?


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David Graves


I read with interest the comments regarding workplace bullying made by GL Hoffman. Whilst I accept that sales organisations can, and often do, encourage bullying behaviour it has to be understood that being tough and having a thick skin does not preclude one from being attacked by the workplace sociopath. Nor does it help the organisation to overcome the toxicity of its environment by simply defending your own position within it which this implies.
The whole of the work environment has to reek of intolerance toward those who seek to undermine and belittle others.
I also have to take issue with the implication that that the male dominated/locker room type of work environment is more likely to breed the bully or propagate the bully seeds. In fact it is my experience that females always have been equally culpable when it comes to unfairly attacking others and recently they appear to be overtaking men.
Here in the UK the type of organisations that seem to lead the way in demonstrating how to bully are The Royal Mail, The National Health Service, Local Government, The Civil Service and, surprise, surprise, organisations that work in the Voluntary sector. Non of these are sales led organisations.
I accept totally Mr Hoffman's assertion that respect from the top will go a long way to creating an ethos within a company that is intolerant to bullying. I further agree that respect is not just about the big things but the day to day minutea as well.
Sadly the true bully is irredeemable and will continue to bully no matter how benign the ethos of the organisation the only answer is to get rid of this serial bully at the earliest opportunity.
One final point regarding Mr Hoffman and his company; may I respectfully suggest that it would go an awfully long way to eradicating bullying in the workplace if, rather than choose tough, thick skinned candidates for a job where he is aware bullying may take place, that he simply refuses to place candidates with that company. An organisation that realises that it is no longer being offered quality employees and understands the reason behind it will eventually get the message. The whole of the employment chain needs to take a stand we should not just pin our hopes on commercial organisations getting their act together.

David Graves
Author: Fighting Back (overcoming bullying in the workplace) McGraw-Hill

Timothy Johnson

Hi David, thanks for weighing in. In fairness to G.L. (who was kind enough to answer my questions), he did emphasize over and over that it is not advisable to over-generalize, and that his answers were based on his own observations and experience. I think you bring up many excellent points. I've observed that when it comes to bullying, women can be much more lethal than their male counterparts (see my prior post back in May on engendering your personal brand). With women, they are capable of playing the emotional and psychological card so much more adeptly than the men, who are much more overt with their bullying tactics. Also, the types of organizations ARE all over the board. As a consultant, I've seen this behavior in manufacturing, financial services, and even within consulting firms.

I've been very fascinated in my research that the U.K. seems to lead the pack on quantitative research in the area of bullying. I'm able to find considerably more data from your country than here in the U.S.

Thanks again for weighing in... I'd be willing to wager that we could have some amazing discussions. Would love to read your book.

Crysta Wille

There was recently a question posed in LinkedIn about this type of behavior. I don't know if there have been economic studies on the impact of bullying, but I would think that the intellectual drain is costly, to both the bottom line and in retention of qualified employees.

If you're swimming in a pool of sharks, how long can you tread water?

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