The Corporate Bully
A good friend shared the Inc.com article (How to Stop Jerks at Work | Inc.com) about corporate bullies with me a few months ago and it has had me thinking about this topic since. The author quotes a definition from Seth Godin that follows.
Bullying is what happens when an individual with power exercises that power against people who don’t fit in. By threatening to expose or harm or degrade the outlier, the bully reinforces the status quo in a way that increases his power.
I am not always a fan of Seth Godin but I have difficulty arguing with his succinct definition. Think about it and mull it over and you will quickly realize how many bullies you are really working with. Maybe to a more prevalent extent you have to deal with a bully that is righteous about their position to ‘degrade the outlier’. Just as kids on the school yard playground, adults in the corporate boardroom find themselves dealing with name calling, pushing and shoving — if not literally at least figuratively as they jockey for political favor.
This reminded me of Robert Sutton’s No Asshole Rule and his famous ARSE Test. Dr. Sutton explores the impact that having these bullies and assholes in the organization can do to the bottom line. Yet, isn’t this the real issue that we have to have the uncomfortable conversation about results? You see, Sutton, Godin, et. al. have been having this conversation about bullies and the like for about a decade and nothing has changed, maybe even deteriorated more so. As a business culture have we grown to the point where it is now uncomfortable, or immoral to discuss the bottom line? (Yes, I know I do not have hard data to back up this claim.) Hence we can talk about, ridicule, harass, chide, and degrade others that do not meet the cultural norm of the organization. It is a lot easier to discuss something else rather than the overall lack of performance. If I can blame the poor performance of the organization on some other ‘soft’ measurement we will never get to talk about the ‘hard’ measurements or so the logic goes and the name calling continues.
Manage to the results and then all this other non-sense goes away. It will be uncomfortable at first but hey, it has to be better than dealing with corporate bullies.