Corporate bullying is a repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons by one or more perpetrators including verbal abuse, offensive behaviour, with nonverbal conducts which are threatening, humiliating or intimidating. We all know what this is about, mangers that abuse power, yell, harass and breed resentment, sabotage and costly turnovers without even caring. They know that they are in a position in which this kind of headship will not be questioned. These executives see themselves as power players and find that their aggressive style helps them claw to the top. Little companies, family business are not the only ones that suffer corporate bullying. It may surprise you how many big organizations hold these emperors in their reigns. The sad part of the story is that they make large companies move with the speed of small ones.
Roderick Kramer, professor at the Stanford Business School says that these leaders are people who are very brusque in fighting for their own vision; they push people aside because they question their points of view, but they attract and protect their followers. They are tough to work with, but they are well perceived in big organizations because they sell themselves as defenders of a strong strategic vision. In fact, they are able to squeeze out the best of their teams, if they can meet their high standards and withstand their perfectionism, so it is gratifying to be in their inner circle. But it is hard to be in it. It is harder to be out of it.
Corporate bullying involves tantrums, coercion, shouts and screams. At some point those visionaries pop off, they stop looking beyond the quarterly reports and stockholder dividends, they start ignoring internal stakeholders and they are not able to see potential talent outside their circle. They perceive the others as a threat. Their motto is: It is better for a prince to be feared than to be loved. Yes, they like Machiavelli´s words but they tend to forget that he also said. Hatred is something a prince should carefully avoid.
Let me be clear, corporate bullying is not synonymous of leadership; it is a form of abuse. Bullies often go to great lengths to keep their targets quiet, using threats as disciplinary action while leaders privilege communication. Bullies fear exposure, leaders love it. Bullies fright being publicly shown because of the inadequacy of their policies. A bully wants to enjoy the benefits of living in the privileged world but is unable and unwilling to accept responsibilities which are a prerequisite for being a leader. No, bullies are not leaders.
A bully is a person who has never learnt to accept responsibility for their behaviour. A bully does not want to know of any other way of working and is reluctant to recognize that there are better ways to do things; of course, they are also averse to admit the effect of their actions on others.
Corporate bullying is the perfect reflection of a person in a leading position that has not learnt the lesson of consequences. It is likely that a bully has avoided the costs of misconduct through the instinctive response of denial, blame and feigning victimhood.
Despite the facade that such executives put up, bullies have low self-esteem, because they are inadequate and unable to fulfil the duties and obligations of their position, but they have no hesitation in accepting the salary. They fear being revealed. This fear of exposure often borders paranoia.
Unfortunately, corporate bullying is increasing. According to Forbes magazine, this kind of harassment is becoming part of the corporate culture of big companies. The economic problems, the unemployment scenario are favouring this conducts: Increasing workloads, changing timetables, blocking career path progression, under the menace of: “agree to this, or else…” Bullies find it easy to abuse employees with impunity, knowing that the law is weak and jobs are scarce.
But, even though it is relatively easy to be a bully, watch out. In environments where bullying is the norm, most people will become either bullies or victims, productivity will drop, and the health of the working atmosphere will be seriously compromised. The working team will suffer. Talented people will leave because although it is difficult to find an employment, good employees will find a place to work sooner or later. On the other hand, people that remain around a bully will labour with stress, accuracy may diminish, and initiative will die. The progress of the company will be seriously endangered.
Companies should not tolerate corporate bullying. People should not confuse leadership with bullying. A leader will always bring good results in a harmonious, well-managed team. A bully will not. He is not willing to do so, because he is not capable to do so.