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Fear Mongering

©2016 Gail Pursell Elliott

(Gail writes The Bully at Work Column for the Workplace Violence Prevention E-Report)

Each Spring I watch some classic mobbing on the front lawn as birds drive predators away from nesting areas.  They will attack other birds as well, ganging up on one bird even one of their own.  In the Midwest, this behavior can be seen in the barnyard as well as one chicken is targeted by the others who peck at it until it dies.  It is not one bully continuously pecking, but all the chickens isolate and peck once or twice and the pecks accumulate to kill the targeted bird. It is frightening to watch and the results are horrific.

In an election year we see a great deal of this type of behavior as candidates peck at each other with innuendoes, question work or credentials, dig up and spread rumors, speculate on myriad negative suppositions which detract from the business at hand.  All of this is done in an effort to drive the opponent out of the race or out of grace with voters.  Meanwhile some members of the media join in the rumors and speculation, sometimes coming up with possibilities of their own.  People who are watching either become confused or grab on to whatever resonates with their own prejudices or beliefs.  It is interesting to watch how pieces of information become blown out of proportion and others are downplayed.  Remembering that the candidates are competing for a job puts this into the arena of workplace mobbing and bullying.

On the smaller scale of the immediate workplace we see similar behaviors.  Again each person grabs onto whatever resonates with their own prejudices, beliefs, or how what is happening may potentially impact them.  When the behavior is emanating from a change in the overall approach to business by upper management and impacts services to customers or clients, I have seen gradual but continuous exits by quality staff that care about those services.  It is important to pay attention not only to turnover, but where the turnover is happening and who is leaving.  Regardless of the focus of an organization, whether it is service, product, or entertainment, the end user is the consumer.  When an organization begins to cut costs and quality in an effort to improve the bottom line, there are those who will look for other opportunities as a result of personal integrity.  When these changes impact an individual’s sense of safety in terms of their job, it becomes worse.  When the changes impact job security, the organization begins to operate on fear rather than forward thinking in the opinion of its employees.

Fear can be a powerful motivator, but it is a negative one.  When an individual is being mobbed the anxiety and confusion take a tremendous toll not only physically and emotionally but also on the person’s ability to work efficiently and well.  Coworkers who are watching may become just as anxious that they may be next.  If this can happen to one person it can happen to them as well.  Or because of their integrity, they may feel uncomfortable working for an organization that allows this to happen to anyone.

One organization with which I worked had an exodus of many individuals in supervision and middle management for this very reason.  They watched their boss become targeted and though they did not understand the process, their exit interviews stated that they did not want to work for an organization that allowed this to happen.  Quite a few of them had been with the organization for many years and were committed not as much to the individual as to the organization itself.  This became compromised by the behavior of those in authority and once lost was impossible to regain.   This is how targeting individuals or making changes without regard to the impact on individual lives or what motivates employees can impact the organization as a whole for years to come.  These ripple effects are well worth considering when looking at individual cases of mobbing or bullying within your organization.  Whatever your bottom line happens to be, whatever drama happens to be occurring in one or more areas eventually will not be lost on others and will impact the whole either positively or negatively. It is well worth considering that the health of your company is reflected in the wellbeing of employees in these complicated times.

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Gail Pursell Elliott is known as The Dignity and Respect Lady.  She has been recognized as an authority on Mobbing, Bullying and Harassment since 1998 and has been a guest expert on both television and radio programs.  Gail is the author of several books, including School Mobbing and Emotional Abuse: See It, Stop It, Prevent It with Dignity and Respect. Her Food for Thought essays are read by people around the world.  She is co-author of the 1999 book Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace, the definitive book on this subject based on the original research of Dr. Heinz Leymann. She consults with organizations of all kinds, presents at conferences, and provides training on Mobbing and soft skills topics with a focus on people treating each other with Dignity and Respect.  Gail is founder and proprietor of Innovations “Training With a Can-Do Attitude” located in Eastern Iowa.  Her website is www.tashidelay.innovations-training.com     She would love to work with you to help heal your organization with both insight and awareness.

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