©2017 Gail Pursell Elliott
We’ve examined the relative costs of bullying and mobbing in the workplace in terms of the cost to the individual, the costs to the organization in turnover, morale, workers compensation, reputation, and other areas. Yet environments continue to allow it to exist and persist. Perhaps the inconvenience of addressing the issue when it comes to individuals is part of this. Sometimes the perpetrator is someone who would be difficult to replace or someone who contributes to the success of the organization, such as the top sales performer.
These individuals can have an inflated sense of self-importance that can result in them treating others like underlings rather than as colleagues. Have you ever wished you could be a fly on the wall to witness what is really happening in your workplace? Many managers do and may either keep their office doors open or have their work area out in the open. It all depends on the industry and the type of work being accomplished. One Human Resources director told me she had spies everywhere to keep her informed of what was happening. I don’t know if that was true or not. This same person told me that if there was a dispute between an employee and a supervisor, guess who’s going to win?
With or without spies or flies on the wall, organizations can look at patterns of behavior and history when determining whether the arrogance of a top performer has crossed the line. At the same time, we can determine where that line is in each work area. They are indeed different from department to department based on individuals. Targets of bullying and mobbing become beaten down when they are not believed, helped, or when it becomes clear that there is no recourse. Interviews with employees have revealed some of the results of these factors.
1. Increased turnover in the department. New people don’t stay very long. They can’t handle it.
2. Undercurrent of fear. Lots of us have had run-ins with this person. We try to stay clear.
3. Reduced morale. This place sucks.
4. Unclear expectations. One day the procedure is this, the next day it changes, and I get in trouble. I never know if I’m doing it right.
5. Reduction in quantity or quality of work. I used to care about the company. I was proud to work here. Now it’s just a job.
These are just a few indicators that mobbing and bullying behaviors are poisoning the good efforts of employees. Lack of teamwork and trust are another result, as people who once enjoyed their employment become suspicious of management that is now viewed as hypocritical.
When mobbing takes hold in a department, a sense of group arrogance and anarchy is created, and the dynamics take on a life of their own. When a bully is not reigned in, whether a top performer or a difficult to replace professional or not, that same arrogance and sense of being untouchable, can result in worse behavior over time. It also can give rise to either an uninspired, beaten down work group, factionalism, full-blown mobbing, or worst-case scenario – retaliatory violence.
Some organizations either don’t recognize these factors or simply don’t care. Alternatively, others may feel trapped in an untenable situation, the cost of extrication being too high. It all depends on what is valued and whether sacrificing people, morale, trust, etc., is worth the cost of keeping or not restraining the antics of this type of individual. It has been said that everyone has his or her price.
Another interviewee had worked in Human Resources for years and finally transferred out saying, I just couldn’t do it anymore. For years he had participated in the undermining of individuals at the behest of upper management, and watched mobbing as a method of getting rid of employees who had become too old, too expensive, or who had ruffled the feathers of the wrong individual. Finally, the cost to him ethically became too high.
There are some who believe that this is just business. There are others who are unable to compartmentalize their actions toward others in such a way. Where are the lines in your organization? At what point will the cost become too high?
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For consultation or assistance with workplace Mobbing and Bullying, contact author Gail Pursell Elliott, known as The Dignity and Respect Lady. Gail 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. Dr. Leymann was consulted while writing the book and wrote the forward to it. The book is now available in e-book format from mobbing-usa.com. Gail 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. She has been recognized as an authority on Mobbing, Bullying and Harassment 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. Gail is proprietor of Innovations ͞Training With a Can-Do Attitude͟ located in Eastern Iowa. Her website