Targets vs. business leaders: a major gap in perceptions of workplace abuse as a serious problem

When HR departments give training on core values or discrimination, a logical response from employees is to believe their employers care about their well-being.

But not so fast.

When employees take complaints to HR departments, employers often individualize the problem to avoid liability, touting beliefs in employee well-being but take opposite action.

Let's take this disconnect one step further. Author Andrew Faas interviewed 138 leaders about bullying and found that most leaders are unaware of what workplace bullying even is. For those who are aware, most don’t view it as violence or a business risk (even though most said they’d been targets after seeing a definition of it).

Sadly, these findings mean that most cultures are toxic. Faas found that:

  • The majority of leaders said they used bullying to get things done, using fear as a motivator because targets have performance or attitude issues.
  • Most leaders didn’t see the connection between bullying and performance, rejecting the idea that bullying causes targets to reduce their level of engagement, commitment, and performance.
  • Most saw that educating their employees on bullying would give employees a tool during discipline.

So Faas deemed more than half of these leaders he interviewed to be bullies:

  • Most were grossly out of touch with what happens in their organizations and their cultures. Most couldn’t state their core values. Most didn’t know their turnover rates, absentee rates, or number of people out on stress leave.
  • Only a quarter of the leaders dealt with bullies, and of those leaders, only FOUR found fault with the bully.
  • Most saw turnover as a good thing because it gets rid of dead weight.
  • They support cultures of fear. More than half admit their employees may be afraid to blow the whistle. When they do blow the whistle, more than half consider whistleblowers — rather than bullies — to be treasonous or poor performers. Most felt that whistleblowers — rather than an investigative team to protect targets — should prove their allegations. Yet most recognized they may not hear what they need to hear.
  • Most side with management. Most of them said they often accept one-sided representations when there’s a conflict.

How do we change these truths? Increase awareness of workplace abuse and encourage each other to admit to being targets to expose the problem, even anonymously, to increase action from business leaders.


Take Your Dignity Back
If you feel like you’re stuck in a big rut that’s destroying your life, learn how to reverse the damage. 

Right now, you wish you could just tell your bully at work to knock it off, report the problem to management, and show the bully how childish he or she’s behaving. At best, the bully’s sidetracking the goals of the organization. At worst, the bully’s threatening or maybe even destroying your life by abusing you: your health, your family, your career, your finances, and your happiness.

You know it’s not a personality conflict. You’re not too sensitive. You’re not thin-skinned. It’s downright abuse. You expected your work environment to support you to do the work you were hired to do. You expected to be treated with dignity and respect.

The organization doesn’t care. They think it’s in their best interest to ignore the problem — meaning you — and make you go away. When you speak up, you’re the problem. You’re treasonous. If you fight them, they’ll fight harder.

Meanwhile, you’re stressed out and angry, and it gets worse the longer the bullying goes on, making you an easier target for the bully. Your physical and mental health are depleted. You consider or take stress leave. 

Find out what workplace bullying is, why it happens, what's worked — and what hasn't worked — for hundreds of other workplace bullying targets, and how to start the path to healing in this comprehensive online course drawing from the greatest minds in workplace bullying.

Learn more about the online course.

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