It is said that a fish rots from the head.
Clearly, when bullying is ignored or perpetuated by management, bullies are free to create misery in their organisation. To avoid becoming a target, other workers, will often befriend the bully and actively support the bullying behaviour, oppressing other workers who are not in their clique. Bullied workers will either suffer in silence, believing that to complain will make things worse, or leave.
Great workers know they don’t deserve to be bullied and recognising the workplace is toxic, will simply leave the organisation. This organisation is then populated by bullies, the oppressed and the silent – who keep their heads down, fearing they may become another target.
Bullies are usually very clever. They know how to play office politics. To higher management, they make themselves appear highly effective as they are supported by their cohorts. Bullies are promoted, they promote their friends, and surrounded by their inner circle often end up running these toxic organisations.
There is hope. Change must start at the top. There is no point in telling workers not to bully, if management are doing it. For those organisations which DO finally recognise they are inefficient, unproductive, at risk of litigation and workers are being harmed, big shifts need to be made.
An effective plan by a determined and empowered change organisation or effective committee, in collaboration with workers and sustained effort are required. For large organisations to become safe for all workers free of bullying will take about 18 months.
Education is available to help all workers, from the CEO to the most junior to Identify, Prevent and Manage Bullying. Workers can learn to be assertive (rather than passive or aggressive), responsible, resilient and safe.
Those identified as bullies need to stop their bullying behaviours or leave the organisation.