Bullying in the workplace

Organization-motivated aggression like retaliatory behavior and antisocial conduct designed to harass, ostracize, humiliate (verbally and non-verbally), and eliminate any employee who might become a problem for management could be classified as bullying behavior. Human resources departments are designed to protect management and can be easily drawn into playing the role of the “Bully” who is hiding behind his or her legal jargon in order to lynch and attack targeted employees.

Targeting vulnerable employees, who speak the truth, have medical conditions, or legitimate complaints, has been an old business practice. However, by simply placing a label and identifying this problem as “bullying” does not make this predicament disappear, but might give it a good starting point.                          

In large organizations, like government bureaucracies these antisocial and lynching behaviors by management are prevalent. Government bureaucracies are anti-progress by nature and bureaucrats don’t like change. They are financed by taxpayers’ money and can care less whether services are efficiently provided or ethical standards are met. They only care if the situation becomes public. “Status quo is the modus operandi,” because any change might be perceived by bureaucrats as additional work or as a threat to their existing power.  As a result, the bureaucrats will go on a hunt to besmirch and destroy the truth-seeker or the whistle-blower to save their image, their salaries, and their jobs. Damage control turns into a bullying campaign where employees are intimidated, threatened, alienated, and portrayed as disgruntled, traitors, and trouble makers instead of truth-tellers.

In a consumeristic, narcissistic, and pseudo-democratic society, truth has no place in the business world. As a matter of fact, liars make the best leaders! Machiavellian politics and business practices are predominantly utilized and implemented in order to make the most money and eliminate any competition.

Will implementation of anti-bullying measures and safeguards in the workplace become the new operational business standard? The battle is tough, because this subject makes human resources and executive managers nervous due to their awareness of their own bullying strategies and will forcefully resist any anti-bullying measures.

Fortunately, workplace bullying is receiving international attention as a real problem that is affecting employee morale, productivity, customer satisfaction, creativity, and ethical standards. Whether it is a boss or a colleague who is doing the bullying, private entities and Government organizations are afraid of this critical issue that might affect their power if the public becomes aware of this preponderant problem. 37 % of the U.S workforce report being bullied at work, and an estimate 53.5 million American (35% of the U.S. workforce) have experienced bullying in the workplace according to a survey by the workforce Bullying Institute (WBI) in California. Let’s be honest, “Bullying,” can only be sustained or eliminated by employers.

Luckily, John Lipinsky an Associate Professor of Management at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, and Laura M. Crothers, a Professor of School Psychology at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh have put together, authored, and edited a timely book titled “Bullying in the workplace: Causes, symptoms, and remedies” that covers every aspect of this subject. The volume explores what is bullying, who does it, and what perpetuates it. It also offers solutions and strategies to prevent it and manage it to minimize damage. 

Editors Lipinsky and Crothers address many of our questions about workplace bullying, and provide a comprehensive and insightful look at the state of our knowledge about this disturbing trend. The authors cover an array of provocative and creative anti-bullying ideas that should be implemented in every organization.  The book is divided into five parts.                                                                     

In part I, the authors of the first four chapters attempt to elucidate organizational misbehavior, and illustrate the history of bullying in the American workplace, as well as the effect of bullying on employees and the workforce.       

In part II, bullying is discussed across the lifespan starting with school yard brawls to conference room pandemonium.  In addition, the evolutionary models for predicting bullying and implications for interventions are explored. Furthermore, the chapters address the social-ecological model for predicting workplace bullying and the neurological contribution to bullying behaviors.

In part III, bullying is discoursed as a form of workplace incivility and explored in the unionized workplace. Moreover, physical and verbal bullying is clarified as well as the relational and social aggression in the workplace. The chapters make the connection between sexual harassment and bullying, and even explore cyber bullying and its consequences.  In addition, the last chapter in part III undertakes a huge problem like the considerations regarding the workplace bullying of persons with disabilities.

In part IV, the authors of the chapters tackle the role of human resources departments in addressing bullying behavior, and strategies to help managers handle this ominous problem. They also offer remedies for victims, and strategies to treat bullies, and emphasize the importance of creating policies and laws to address bullying in the workplace.

In the final part, the authors of the segments encourage the use of selection techniques to keep bullies out, and design jobs to be bully-proofed. They also realistically discuss the future obstacles and challenges facing bullying in the workplace.

Although “Bullying in the workplace” offers poignant and creative ideas to eliminate or suppress bullying behavior, the reality of this haunting practice remains untouched. Therefore, we have to ask ourselves, how can a society that worships money and power compromise itself by eliminating its most effective power-tool? Can the powerful be divided against itself and survive? Political rhetoric is completely different from actual life. Is bullying a power tool or a deviance? Unfortunately, when deviant behavior is prevalent, it tends to become a norm that everyone accepts. Therefore, bullying in the workplace and in society in general has been accepted as a common practice. Would that make it acceptable? The various authors of this book succeeded in making their case against societal and workplace bullying, however, genuine implementation and change will take years to unfold assuming that the cultural dynamics and the love affair with power will diminish. The final question that remains unanswered is: Can humans practice power without bullying?

Finally, whether you agree with the message of this book or not, the editors have assembled a magnum opus on the subject of bullying in the workplace. The volume is an engaging and eloquent constellation of ideas by a variety of experts on the subject who offer creative concepts and objectives to reduce and eventually eliminate this pervasive and sinister problem that has contaminated every organization and every human resources department. Moreover, this volume will make a great reading for anyone who is interested in kind and noble human relations, and who advocates for decency and civility in our schools and in our workplace.

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