A few years into my advocacy for workplace abuse legislation, I co-led a small business. I quickly realized that knowing what not to do didn’t necessarily translate well into what to do. What were best practices for bringing out the best in employees? How could I work to help workers feel fulfilled and strong? What did I need to gain self-awareness of to prevent a toxic culture? These questions led me to dive into what it took to create a healthy workplace.
The toxic culture
In his book The Bully’s Trap, Andrew Faas dissects the cultures that lead to abuse in the first place. He says that in toxic cultures, employers see employees as expendable. When employers consider workers a means to an end rather than associates, that’s exploitation. Here are some key factors in a toxic culture:
“Excellence isn’t usually what gets you up the greasy pole. What gets you up is a talent for maneuvering. Kissing up to the people above you, kicking down to the people below you,” says leadership speaker William Deresiewicz. Most of us who find ourselves bullied at work wonder how on earth the incompetent bullies get ahead while the competent and ethical targets stay at lower ranks with less pay and responsibility.
Here are two reasons why bullies get ahead at work:
If you think workplace bullying is a bigger issue than managers often suspect, you’re right. Research supports that workplace bullying simply often goes unreported but it’s still happening. In their Employee Rights and Employee Policy Journal article, Researchers Loraleigh Keashly and Joel H. Neuman said a study of the VA healthcare system, the VA Project, showed a gap between those who experienced workplace bullying and those who reported it their experience to a supervisor. “Of the people identified as being exposed to bullying behavior (36 percent of the total sample), 53 reported their experience to a supervisor. An even smaller proportion (15 percent) filed a formal grievance.”
Possible reasons for not reporting bulling behavior at work:
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