Wednesday, July 1

Bullying Employees: Organizational Risk


According to Gary Namie, director of the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) and author of the new book "The Bully At Work," published in 2000, workers are feeling the heat, as the bulk of workplace harassment cases involve superiors taunting employees. Although the survey sampling is small, some of the findings are interesting.

WBI Survey: Economic Crisis and Bullying

• 75.4% of perpetrators have higher a position than the target
• 65.9% of perpetrators are female; 81% of targets are female
• 27.5% said the bullying has become worse since the recession

"People are more stressed because there's no escape," Namie told The Miami Herald, saying that recessions trap employees to suffer from verbal abuse, humiliation, career sabotage, or intimidation.

For organizations, higher management might sometimes miss the warning signs and symptoms of bad leadership. As a result, the bullying continues with employees too afraid to report the infractions. But according to the International Institute of Management, there are several warning signs that top management and boards ought to consider.

Ten Signs That A Bully Is Leading The Team

• Management that does not allow disagreements and expects agreement in any public setting.
• There is limited or no leadership performance review for employees to provide feedback.
• Recruitment, selections and promotions are based on internal political agenda and personal loyalty.
• Some departments are underutilized while other departments are overloaded to make up the difference.
• Plans are heavy on talk but light on action; management tends to end programs and talk about programs that never develop.
• There is frequent and heated division, with language more focused on point scoring and buck-passing than sharing responsibility.
• Management wastes more time and energy on internal attack and defense strategies instead of executing the work.
• Leaders spend most of their time on fire fighting instead of proactive planning for next-generation products and services.
• Morale deteriorates and employees suffer muted commitment and enthusiasm compared to other teams.
• There is a high rate of absenteeism and a high employee turnover rate, with past employees spoken about poorly.

Sooner or later, key decision makers have to make the argument that the bully's too expensive to keep. In today's communication environment, it is only a matter of time before employees begin to publicly undermine the organization out of frustration because bad leadership tends to stick to the organization as a whole rather than the individual perpetrator.

A Bright Contrast To Bad Leadership

Years ago, when I first began studying leadership, Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI), a global leader in automotive, building efficiency, and power solutions, became a source of fascination for me after I was introduced to it by the book "In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best Run Companies." I was interested enough that I purchased some stock at the right time.

However, over the years, it seemed to me that some of the qualities cited in the 1988 book (especially employee relations) were beginning to erode. So I sold most of the stock, but continued to keep tabs on the company. Last Tuesday, the company reported a second quarter loss of $193 million, or 33 cents a share. It doesn't expect positive earnings until the fourth quarter of this year.

Where's the bright light? Forbes reports that 140,000 employees of Johnson Controls took part in week-long series of discussions at more than 1,000 company locations around the globe one month ago. They were learning and exchanging ideas about how to sharpen the value they bring to their customers.

"Only 10 to 15 percent of our employees are customer-facing," said CEO Stephen Roell. "But our customer focus means examining all the interactions and hand-offs that take place inside and across the company. It's important that each employee see the connection between what they do and the customer experience, that they see that each of them has a vital role in that relationship and the satisfaction of our customers."

Aha. See the difference? Leadership.

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