The Pattern Repeats Itself In Your Business Unless You Get ConsciousBy: Susan Dunn
Litigious words such as "mobbing" and "bullying" partially describe what would be called a "dysfunctional workplace" in psychological terms, "hell" to the people involved who want nevertheless to do good work, "damaging" to a business' reputation and ability to attract the best and retain them, "detrimental to the bottom line" by the astute CEO, and "long-lasting" to those who understand human behavior.
Bullying is a carryover from schoolyard behavior, and is illegal in the workplace in the UK. It can be subtle intimidation, physical violence, harassment, demeaning comments, isolating the victim or any number of other acts. And, yes, there is a victim.
About the Victim
In writing a series in my ezine on bullying, I find that males and females are true to their "average" emotional intelligence.
Women are generally higher in empathy, and I find them more sympathetic to the victim. Men are generally lower in social responsibility and expect the victim to take action on their own behalf. Studies of jurors in employment litigation confirm that men expect the victim not to "have to" go to a higher authority, but to settle it themselves.
Not all men and women are alike, but those are the usual responses to an emotional intelligence assessment.
That having been said, the way a victim would handle a bully without going to higher authority would be to become a bully him or herself. Might makes right!
What's also sad is that many responses to the ezine and other articles I write about mobbing and bullying come from victims themselves, who think there's legal recourse, and at this time in the US there is not. (Check with your own attorney of course.)
But why does it have to go to court? Am I the only one glad to see tort reform moving forward?
Once bullying starts, there are no bystanders. You can't afford to not join in, or you'll become a victim and scapegoat yourself. Lines get drawn. It's about survival. In a culture where everyone's either red or white, you can't be pink because then you are no longer white.
Bullying is self-perpetrating. Why? Because like attracts like. The bully will hire other bullies, and, worse yet, will promote other bulliers. And the victims, or those who find it difficult to do their best in adversarial conditions, will leave.
All bullies are "serial" bullies, a term I've heard that strikes me as redundant. One might just as well say "bullies are bullies." While the less-enlightened reader might say the victim "asked for it," the sad truth is that to the bully, any old victim will do. In a culture that allows bullying, victims wear out, while bullies do not. Bullies move on the someone else; after all, it's "what they do." Therefore, the acts of the bully continue, unless consciously halted, though the names and faces of the victims change.
By the way, the result of this heavy stress on victims is termed in the UK not "mental illness," but "psychiatric injury."
As an analogy, when I'm giving workshops, I do refer to the playground, and to the family. Just as dysfunctional behavior gets passed from one generation to the next, so does it in the office. The residual affect of one bully can last for years unless there's intervention. The victim must be removed (and healed) and the bully must learn the behavior is not acceptable, and the workplace culture must be changed so that workers will believe harassment is no longer permitted. It must become "that's not done here."
An Office Culture
An office culture of emotional intelligence must be consciously, actively and intentionally set into place, explained, monitored, and corrected, over and over again. Infractions must be dealt with immediately.
An EQ culture can include EQ assessments, distance learning - a foundational EQ course on the Internet that's interactive - workshops, group process work, individual phone coaching, on-site educational and motivational posters, modeling or EQ competencies, a weekly ezine about EQ at work, and preferably all of these things.
It needs to be a total immersion program because it will be changing the culture. It starts with awareness and education, and moves into action and interaction.
Emotional intelligence work must involve coaching. EQ learning is limbic learning; it takes more time than cognitive learning (i.e., memorizing a table of elements or learning to write a proposal) and it takes practice with supervision.
In their book on mobbing, Davenport et al write that mobbing victims were usually "exceptional individuals. who demonstrated intelligence, competence, creativity, integrity, accomplishment and dedication ... through their professional careers." Can you afford to lose people like this from your organization?
Common decency as well as proactive risk management would seem to mandate an EQ culture program in a business.
Studies have shown that raising the EQ of one person in an organization does not affect the bottom line, but raising the average EQ level does. The good news is double: emotional intelligence can be learned, and an EQ culture positively affects the bottom line. Why wait?
© copyright, Susan Dunn, 2003
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