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In Semi-Total Somewhat Moderate Disagreement

A series of recent events on my own Facebook experience has forced me out of blogospheric semi-retirement. I want to talk about how social media etiquette, specifically in this day and age of political and ideological posturing.

First and foremost, when you are on somebody else's wall, act as you would if you were on their front lawn or in their living room. Your Facebook page/wall is yours; their Facebook wall is theirs. Period. Do not pick fights or misbehave on another person's wall. There are, however, ways to express your views on another's wall. To do so, we need to differentiate between agreement/disagreement and respect/disrespect. These are not the same, and they should be treated as two different axes on the graph:


You'll notice by the tone of each statement or question on this graph, you're showing how you feel about the person's ideas as well as the person.

Another thing to consider is the audience on their wall. When you engage a person on their wall, all of their friends can see it. While that person may agree with you, their friends may not, so you need to be aware of a much broader audience. I recently had to unfriend and block a person from my Facebook wall (I'd like to think of him as a friend due to our shared history, but after seeing his true colors, I realized quickly that he was not the type of person I wanted to subject my other friends to, let alone myself) because he attacked one of my other friends over a rather trivial topic (not even related to politics) that I'd posted on my wall. What he didn't realize is how many people saw that, and what that did to his overall brand and reputation. I deleted his thread just to save him from himself.

Also, consider your assumptions BEFORE you comment. We all have personal filters that cloud how we see things. Do an assumption check on YOURSELF to see if you have your perceptions in the right place. This can best be done through messenger out of the public eye.

Finally, just play nice. Here are some basic rules of engagement. You don't have to compromise your own core beliefs to recognize that somebody may have different from your own.

It's a Shame

ShameI was catching up on news the other day online and ran across the story of Adam Smith, the former CFO who was fired after his vitriolic Chick-Fil-A video went viral. He went from making $200K a year with a million more in stock options to being on food stamps. He had managed to get a job elsewhere, but when his new employer found out about the video, they also fired him.

About the same time as seeing the news story, as I was cleaning my shed (have to love post-move spring cleaning)I ran across Jonah Lehrer's book, How We Decide. It reminded me of the plagiarism and fabrication scandal involving this book and his newer one, Imagine.

It's interesting how things of such short proximity collide in my brain. A couple of months back, I read a thought-provoking piece by Jon Ronson in the New York Times entitled, "How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco's Life." In this piece, he dissects numerous incidents of public shaming. In this day and age of social media, it's pretty easy to pick a metaphorical skeleton clean in a matter of seconds and retweets. A couple of paragraphs struck me, though:

Still, in those early days, the collective fury felt righteous, powerful and effective. It felt as if hierarchies were being dismantled, as if justice were being democratized. As time passed, though, I watched these shame campaigns multiply, to the point that they targeted not just powerful institutions and public figures but really anyone perceived to have done something offensive. I also began to marvel at the disconnect between the severity of the crime and the gleeful savagery of the punishment. It almost felt as if shamings were now happening for their own sake, as if they were following a script.

Eventually I started to wonder about the recipients of our shamings, the real humans who were the virtual targets of these campaigns. So for the past two years, I’ve been interviewing individuals like Justine Sacco: everyday people pilloried brutally, most often for posting some poorly considered joke on social media. Whenever possible, I have met them in person, to truly grasp the emotional toll at the other end of our screens. The people I met were mostly unemployed, fired for their transgressions, and they seemed broken somehow — deeply confused and traumatized. (NYT 2/15/15, Ronson)

I know I've felt the self-righteous twinge of vengeance when I've perceived a wrong, whether against me or somebody else. In the early days of social media, Ronson nailed it: there was a leveling of social justice. But now it all seems so swift, so severe. And in this day of social media and mobile phones with video cameras, anybody and everybody seems to be fair game.

My bottom line is this: yes, there are people on this planet who do stupid, careless, thoughtless, and rude things. Their reasons are as vast as the stupidity of their actions. (Guess what? We all fall into that category; most of us are just fortunate enough that our actions weren't captured on camera or on social media.) Perhaps it's this Easter season and the thought of forgiveness is forefront on my brain, but maybe - just maybe - afford people a little leniency (or at least a meaningful dialogue) before passing judgment.

Following To the Gates of Help

Othello-iagoIn the grander scheme of office politics, it's fairly simple to note the overt office politicians. Recently, my wife dragged me to encouraged me to escort her to a live production of Shakespeare's Othello. From an audience member's perspective, especially one who knows the plot and characters at least on the surface, the villain Iago's actions and motives were pretty transparent. The guy was slick, and he almost pulled it off.

However, sometimes it is much harder to identify and diagnose underhanded political behavior. A while back in my career, I was recruited to a project by a couple of employees who said I'd be perfect for their organization. They didn't want (or need) the "standard" way of managing a project, as it had yielded failure in the past. The project sounded interesting, and their timing was perfect, so I relented to synchronicity and came on board. A few months into the contract, one of the two took an online project management course. Those who know me and have seen me in action know the paradox: as a college professor, I am generally the polar opposite from "text book" (in pretty much anything in life). I liken project management to music or cooking: to do it well, you learn the rules and ingrain them into your being. To go beyond, you separate science from art and figure out how to break the rules.

Hence, we set up the conflict. Within a couple of weeks of starting this course, this individual noticed I wasn't following all the rules that the online instructor was teaching all "good" project managers do. And this employee started a one-person mission to discredit me. But, in an organization that hadn't delivered anything significant on time or well, I was getting results and I was delivering them on-time. In working with the decision-makers, we had agreed to sacrifice some features and functions up front, and we determined the short-term organizational pain was worth a long-term organizational win. In other words, credibility was on my side, and this person started looking more foolish with every tattling complaint.

Here's the kicker, though: Whenever called on the carpet for this behavior, this individual would muster a look of perplexed hurt and innocently state "I was just concerned" or "I was only trying to help." And therein lies the rub of some covert snake politicians. If they can effectively mask their their true motives with a concerned "Ha! I like not that" (Iago's line which starts Othello down his path of destructive jealousy), then they can get away with a lot.

How do you combat a person like this? Here are a few tips from my experience:

  1. Perform well and accomplish. My project's results and performance discredited this person more than anything I could have said or done in my defense. I've often stated that the best revenge is success. On-time milestone delivery and honest communication of the issues undermined all complaints about process and methodology.
  2. Watch your back. This person rarely came to me, but rather targeted the project executives for complaining innuendo. I had others watching out for me and informing me what was happening. Having a spy or two acting on your behalf is far more valuable. Also, know who really has your back and who is using your back for target practice. Office politics often bring in allies to both sides of a conflict. In this case, my thorn-in-the-side had their own team. Othello fell because the one person he trusted to watch his back was Iago.
  3. Face to Face. Tandem with watching your back is watching the other person's behavior when they're in your presence. Until this person's motives and actions were brought into clear light, the M.O. was syrupy sweet interchanges to my face. I had been clued in early, as my first day on the job, they were all too willing to "take me into their confidence" and provide the gossip on others in the organization.
  4. Give them rope. This is a balancing act for you. If they are doing damage to the project with their actions, you may need to help hasten their demise for the good of the team. But if their self-destruction is imminent, just step back and givem them enough rope to hang themselves. (You might also assess whether the behavior is coachable. I attempted to talk with the person on a couple of occasions, but the die was already cast.)
  5. Document. I never needed to use it, but I had started documenting the behaviors and events as they were coming to my attention. I saved forwarded emails and tracked dates and those involved.

In the end, my project's Iago was defeated and left the organization. I completed the contract successfully and moved on to other endeavors. I've come to learn they used the same behaviors in prior jobs, and they still employ those same behaviors currently. (Some job markets are just too small, and people talk.) I'm guessing at some point early in their career, they were successful with the "I was just concerned" and/or "I was just trying to help" approaches. It's sad they couldn't learn from past mistakes and try something new and constructive.

FREE VISION (Frames and Lenses Not Included)

Eyeglass FramesWith the Independence Day Holiday fast approaching, I decided to try a social experiment this morning on my Facebook page. I needed a news story from a respectable source which would cause a bit of partisan wrestling. The WSJ ran a story stating individual insurance rates for the healthy would most likely double or triple, while those in poor health would get a hike break. BINGO! Perfect.

Now you have to realize that my friends run the gamut of annoyingly liberal to frighteningly conservative. While a majority are comfortably in the middle, I know some who "fan girl" over Obama like a 12-year-old at a One Direction concert. I also know others who have their torches and pitchforks at the ready at the mention of anything Democrat. It makes my life interesting. But for this experiment, I was going to stay out of the way, except for the initial thought grenade I lobbed in their midst with minimal commentary on my part.

Over 50 comments later, they didn't disappoint. There was the usual political rancor and rhetoric. A few tried rational argument and cited sources. Some others shared personal stories. Others resorted to name-calling and generalizations. One insinuated I was elitist for having a print copy of the WSJ. Another called me out for stirring the pot first thing on a Monday (if he only knew).

Why did I do this? Fair question. It was all a question of vision, frames, and lenses. Being a glasses-wearer for the better part of my adult life, I'm used to having my optometrist prescribe the right lens strength for my eyes and then finding a pair of frames to fit my face and prevent my daughters from rolling their eyes in embarrassment. It makes a good metaphor for how we see the world. Our frames (beliefs, values, experiences) support our lenses (how we see the world now). My frame-lens combo wouldn't work for you, any more than yours would work for me. Yet we seem to do want to shove our glasses onto everybody else to make them see the way we do.

Part of the problem is we (collectively) seem to confuse fact and opinion. Like it or not, from a governmental standpoint, most issues are opinion. (They may be moral absolutes for us individually or for our religious community, but I'm not addressing those right now.) Our country was based on freedom. Freedom of religion. Freedom of thought. Freedom of activity. But if we assume the only freedom is our own opinion, we undermine the very intent of those founding fathers. For example, the number of uninsured people in our country is fact; whether health insurance is a right or a consumer good is opinion. How much a procedure costs is fact; whether it is another's responsibility to pay for said procedure is opinion.

Here's where the other part of the problem arises. Because we don't differentiate between fact and opinion (note I said "don't" rather than "can't"), we assume our self-anointed facts are reality and others' opinions are... well... WRONG. We no longer even bother to assess their lenses or frames; we just assume their eye doctor should be jailed for malpractice. It's easier that way. One of the most powerful experiences in my professional career was reading the "Seek first to understand, then be understood" chapter in Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

So my challenge to you this week is this: when you're celebrating the freedom of our nation, remember there are people whose frames and lenses are different from yours. Persuasion is an accomplisment. Celebrate THEIR freedom as well. Start your argument by assuming they are right and you're not. Learn about their frames and lenses. Then they'll probably be more open to learning yours. Doing so may help prevent unnecessary fireworks.

(And to my friends whom I mercilessly exploited today, thanks for playing. Don't think too harshly of me. My personal lens/frame combo means I like to play social anthropologist from time to time.)

Happy Independence Day!

Life's A Fitch: A Lesson in the Birds and the Bees

Today, it is man against nature.

Nest_openerThis week, robins followed the number one rule of real estate (Location! Location! Location!) and believed the top of my garage door opener would be the optimal spot to go condo. The problem with their logic is I like my garage door opener in working order, and I do not want bird poop on my cars IN the garage. Hence, I shut the garage door when they were gone, checked to ensure no eggs had been laid, and promptly dismantled their home renovation project. And they came back. And I dismantled. And they came back. And I dismantled. They don't seem to be getting the fact I don't want them.

Concurrently, bees have been making a home near my daughters' swingset in the back yard. Now I'm well aware of the bee crisis, but with a swingset out of commission, my kids might do the unthinkable: stay indoors and bury their heads in electronic devices. Against my ecological best judgment, I went to Home Depot to purchase spray to evict the bees. The clerk seemed aghast I would consider doing such a thing. She suggested I contact a bee keeper to find the hive and eradicate the bees naturally.

"Do you have the name of a local bee keeper?" I asked.

"Well, no," was her response.

"If I give you my address, will you do the phone research and call around and find one and get them there tomorrow?" I countered.

"I can't do that, sir."

"I'll take the spray."

She shrugged as I grabbed two cans and skulked off toward the cash register.

To top off my week, I've been appalled by Abercrombie & Fitch's CEO Michael Jeffies' comments about marketing to skinny people only. As the father of two growing young women, I go out of my way to impress upon them that their identity is not about body image, and that beauty is more on the inside than the outside.

But then I started connecting the dots. Michael and I are both guilty of excluding a group who want to be part of our "club." The difference is, the birds and the bees operate under instinct; humans operate with feelings and emotions. And the birds and the bees don't have money to spend on rent; people have money to spend on clothing.

There will always be "target markets" in business. Conversely, there will always be "undesirable customers." We'll never be rid of the difficult client whose calls go unanswered and whose emails sit dormant because we just don't have the energy to deal with them. (Don't gasp; you know you do it, too.) The taboo "birds and bees" of business marketing is you NEVER specifically call out those you are excluding. In project management, we list our stakeholders, but we never say, "Oh, yeah, we're NOT doing this project for those bean counters and pencil pushers in Accounting." Your accomplishments will always get further in the positive. If your business is going to "reproduce," ignoring the birds and the bees will be a huge mistake. Acknowledge them. Deal with them. Give them alternatives. But (and I say this with experience of one who has now been chased by both birds and bees in one week) don't piss them off. I'm grateful Mother Nature doesn't have a Twitter account.

One solution would have been to pump that hideously toxic Abercrombie & Fitch "fragrance" all over the garage and the swingset, thereby killing the entire environment for a 50-mile radius.


The robins have now found an alternative spot on my property for their nest. They can stay there. And I'll probably call around for bee keepers next week, even though I don't have time. After all, I'd like to think I'm at least one step ahead of Michael Jeffries.

They're Coming To Get You...

It's Halloween night and I'm home writing a blog post. No costume. No party. No November 1st regrets.

I've been thinking a lot about zombies recently. No, that's not a reflection on my current client or current group of students... probably just the "spirit of the holidays," as it were.

1968 Night of the Living DeadOf course, the benchmark for zombie flicks is "Night of the Living Dead." The great thing about horror movies is, if it's good enough, they'll do a remake. George Romero's 1968 flick was the ground-breaker, but the 1990 remake has its merits, too. Both start out with brother and sister visiting a cemetery, only to be accosted by zombies. Johnny, the obnoxious brother, is the first to reanimate to the walking dead, after taunting his sister Barbra (spelled Barbara for the 1990 version) with "They're coming to get you." Ah, the irony. (OK, now I'm getting hungry for Zombie Burger.)

1990 Night of the Living DeadHere's the interesting divergence in the two movies (SPOILER ALERT). In both Barb(a)ra hides with a group in a farm house until the bitter end. In the 1968 version, though, Barbra is a catatonic victim, drifting through the film up to the point of becoming the final undead buffet. The 1990 Barbara won't stand for that. She takes charge and takes names, and is the only farmhouse survivor.

For those of us who have to dwell among the "Working Dead," we get to see zombies in their most real form. A few years ago, I went to work as a contractor for a company where I had been employed for many years. After being out among the living for so long, I realized how zombified the organization really was. Most who were there were like the 1968 Barbra, fatefully awaiting their acclimation to the other zombies. I, on the other hand, after seeing their grotesque dysfunctionality, likened myself to the 1990 Barbara and engineered my exit (letting them think it was their idea - zombies are pretty easy to trick).

How do you approach the zombies around you? Do you just shrug and accept your fate of becoming one of them, or do you fight for your own personal survival, "leaving the farmhouse" if necessary to seek safer ground away from the undead?

If you're faced with a workplace of the undead and you've not yet joined them, what are you doing to plan your escape? Better think fast. We'll hope you survive till "morning."

Guess Who's Thumbing the Winner?

Bad_Authority_Figure Sigh.

I like to maintain a baseline level of confidence in society.

I like to think that people - at their core - have qualities that benefit others.

I like to believe that all bosses are inherently good... kind of like Luke Skywalker believed there was still good in Darth Vader.

The problem is that Luke Skywalker was right.

This story comes from Eastern Iowa. William Ernst, owner of the QC Mart chain, decided to make a game of firing employees. A judge ruled against him on his little game, stating that he created a hostile work environment, for releasing this memo last spring:

New Contest – Guess The Next Cashier Who Will Be Fired!!!

To win our game, write on a piece of paper the name of the next cashier you believe will be fired. Write their name [the person who will be fired], today's date, today's time, and your name. Seal it in an envelope and give it to the manager to put in my envelope.

"Here's how the game will work: We are doubling our secret-shopper efforts, and your store will be visited during the day and at night several times a week. Secret shoppers will be looking for cashiers wearing a hat, talking on a cell phone, not wearing a QC Mart shirt, having someone hanging around/behind the counter, and/or a personal car parked by the pumps after 7 p.m., among other things.

"If the name in your envelope has the right answer, you will win $10 CASH. Only one winner per firing unless there are multiple right answers with the exact same name, date, and time. Once we fire the person, we will open all the envelopes, award the prize, and start the contest again.

"And no fair picking Mike Miller from (the Rockingham Road store). He was fired at around 11:30 a.m. today for wearing a hat and talking on his cell phone. Good luck!!!!!!!!!!"

(Poor Mike Miller of the Rockingham Road Store.)

One of the questions I generally field as an office politics advisor is: "What happens when it's the boss/leader/owner/authority figure who is exhibiting the bad behavior?"

My answer is generally the same: YOU are still in control of your reaction. YOU can choose to leave. YOU can choose to talk back. YOU can choose not to engage. Or, in their case, YOU can choose to hire a lawyer and fight. Yes, there are consequences to YOUR actions, but the empowering thing is... they're YOUR actions.

We had a situation at a soccer game a couple of weeks back. A child was obviously injured on the field (and this is not my first rodeo, folks... I know the difference between a "shake it off" injury and a "everybody grab a knee" injury). The parents were trying to call the ref's attention to the injured child, and instead of stopping the game to check on her welfare, he opted for yelling at the parents, screaming at him that he knew the rules, and antagonizing instead of managing the situation. Worse yet was the league's decision to side with him without doing adequate investigation into the matter. The parents did what they could; they backed down to his irrational behavior at the game and then reported the referee to the league afterwards. Will this ref ever have a bearing on their lives long-term? No. He was just a man who cared more about his injured ego than an injured child. But the bottom line is this: the parents took the actions that were within their power.

I've dealt with many a bad boss in the course of my career. Nowadays such a person is just fodder for future writing. Nevertheless, it's taken time to learn how to finesse the situation when in the heat of battle. I congratulate those convenience store employees for taking decisive action against their boss. It took courage, no doubt. We'll hope he can learn from the situation.

Remember: when dealing with an ill-minded and/or ill-behaving authority figure, YOU are still in control of YOUR reactions. Never, EVER forget that.

HR Is Neither Human, Nor Are They a Resource

Cb OK, I'm going to have every single SHRM member down my throat if I don't explain my title pretty quickly.

I'm quickly becoming a fan of workplacebullying.org - an outstanding resource for those who are dealing with the extreme of office politics known as workplace bullying.  I take a vested interest in this topic because I was a target of bullying my first job out of college.  Both of the bullies eventually "met their waterloo" and I've been able to observe their roller-coaster careers with interest.  Both have zero credibility with those who now work with them, and those who formerly worked with and for them have extremely unfavorable things to say about them.

Regardless of my own past, I've found this site to be thought-provoking and articulate, especially with a recent post on HR's role in dealing with office politics.  In my afore-mentioned experience, I reached out to HR, who was not only unwilling to help me, but reported my issues to the superiors who were bullying me, just adding fuel to the fire.

A lot has changed in 20 years of evolving organizations... or has it?  Is Human Resources part of the solution or the problem?  After reading two sides of the argument and the corresponding comments, what do you think?  What positions have you observed from HR?  Do they assist with bullying or alleviate it?

Dwarfing Leadership

Dopey_grumpy Once upon a time, Dopey and Grumpy were promoted to managers.  Dopey was in over his head, and Grumpy yelled at everyone.  And nobody lived happily ever after.  The end.

Not much of a plot, eh?

How about if we make it more interesting... say... we genetically fuse Dopey and Grumpy.  That's what the folks at University of California Berkeley have done in their recently released study.  They've discovered that bosses who perceive themselves as inadequate or incompetent are far more likely to bully (and even sabotage) their subordinates.

Kind of explains the Bush-Cheney administration, doesn't it?  (Yeah, yeah, I know... one of the ironies of being a Republican who can view things objectively.)

According to the study, over a third of American workers have been bullied.  I've seen some of the ugliest bullies on the planet in my career, and my work with Office-Politics.com exposes me to worse ones than my imagination could conjure up.

So what do we do about all of this?  Do we suck up to our bosses to make them feel better about themselves?  Well, there is something to helping another individual maintain a modicum of self-esteem.  But what if the boss is just your basic WUHOT?  You can try to help him or her look good... to a point.  You can watch the floundering and even try to expedite the inevitable, but that only makes people miserable in the interim.  You definitely should document every exchange you have with this boss.

Have you ever had an incompetent boss?  What did you do to manage upward?

Monsters Are Such Interesting People

So, why are monsters interesting?  Why do we seem to view the workplace monsters with fascination rather than disgust?  Why do we continue to tolerate - and in some cases, celebrate - our monsters (bullies and jerks) with such reckless abandon?

My thoughts:

  1. Workplace monsters fascinate us because they're able to get away with it.  They buck social norms and make off like bandits.  And they're seemingly never scolded for their bad behaviors.
  2. Workplace monsters are interesting because they carry a stronger brand.  If strong brands are either really loved (by upper management) or really hated (be peers and subordinates), then monsters fit the bill.
  3. Workplace monsters get our attention because - as Sun Tzu advised - we should "keep our friends close; our enemies, closer."  Whether it's to avoid them or just keep tabs on them, we know that it's wise to keep monsters on the radar screen.

And, as Bugs observed, monsters really are "such interesting people."  Who are your monsters, and why do they interest you?

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?

Soft and Cuddly... Like Sandpaper

IntimidationSpringboarding from my last post, let's keep talking about bullies.  Since half of the workplace is aware of them or targeted by them, it would be a good idea to dissect bullies a little bit.

This is a topic that makes people uncomfortable, because it is difficult to monitor and fix.  Many employers would rather turn a blind eye to the problem.  However, what that approach causes is absenteeism and turnover.  Last week, Personnel Today's blog nailed the issue:

"You are never going to be able to totally eradicate bullying, but if employers can admit that bullying does go on, then we are going to congratulate them for coming forward - it's not about blaming anyone. We're not going to throw rocks at you, but it makes absoslute sense for employers to understand what is deemed acceptable behaviour in the workplace and what is not."

So, what is deemed acceptable behavior?  How do we identify the activities that constitute bullying?  According to Laurie Pawlik-Keinlen at Suite 101, we define bullying as "verbal abuse, threatening or humiliating behavior, or work sabotage.... Bullying at work is mostly psychological bullying, and includes excluding coworkers from lunches or after-hours get-togethers and spreading lies or gossip."  There is a significant intimidation factor, and perception is the key political game ball.  While all bullying plays off of power, workplace bullying emphasizes the perception of power, and the bully over-emphasizes these perceptions through innuendo or direct intimidation.  The bully also plays off of divide-and-conquer.  The bully strives to go after the weakest of the herd, and successfully singles out potential targets.

For those who have ever been the targets of bullies, my empathy to you.  My first boss out of college was a bully.  I hated going to work, but then I learned how to begin documenting the events.  When I presented the fact that I had been documenting to management (who had, up until that point, sided with the bully), I was suddenly moved to a different supervisor and my workplace experience improved tremendously.  For years following, though, I experienced residual stress every time a manager wanted to have any kind of one-on-one communication with me.  I had let it go on far too long.

Laurie's article also includes some quick tips for dealing with bullies:

  • Be aware of state or provincial legislations against workplace bullying
  • Check for stated policy violations
  • Take time off
  • Talk to your employer
  • Formally report the incident(s) with dates and specific behaviors
  • Nobody needs to remain a target (note, I do not use the word "victim") of a bully.  Next post, we'll cover some of the employment environment issues.

    Image from Despair.com

    Well, Bully For You


    According to a recent Zogby Poll, 49% of American workers have either been witness to or targets of workplace bullying.  Half of us!  This problem is getting interesting... and scary.  It must be a very "silent epidemic" (the article's words, not mine) since 45% claim never to have seen or experienced bullying.  That means we're divided down the middle on this one, since people who fall into the latter group are often scratching their heads about the other half.

    I'm not going to dwell on the statistics, although they are fascinating.  I'm growing more and more curious about this from an organizational perspective.  Why do companies allow it?  Is there any recourse for somebody who is a target of a workplace bully?  What kinds of organizations are prone to bullying?

    These are some of the questions I hope to answer in the coming posts.  I've worked in many types and sizes of organizations over the past two decades.  Here in Des Moines, there are very pleasant places to work, and there are companies where bullying runs rampant.  There are a couple of the "big box" employers in particular where I know that this problem is a very visible and long-standing part of the culture (as I'm sure there are in other towns across the globe).  When I have a friend or a student who is considering employment at one of these companies, I gently steer them to other alternatives.  And I refuse to contract there, regardless of project or rate.

    What about you?  Do you perceive workplace bullying to be a problem?  Why or why not?

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