[People] “. . . lack the courage to choose civility when there seems no expectation, respect or reward for doing so” Bayer, 2011.
Has anyone ever said to you, “You’re really nice; I think you get walked on”? Namie (2012) describes bullied targets as helpful, warm, non-confrontational, nurturing, possessing high emotional intelligence (EQ), friendly, and likely to maintain the high-road. At work, they are the recipients of self-aggrandizement that goes both unchallenged and unreported.
What is it about individualistic cultures that encourages some employees to manipulate their peers? In my estimation, it’s a combination of lower than average inhibitions – e.g., not seeing a reason to “pump the brake” or exercise personal restraint – combined with either a position that allows for unmonitored actions (such as manager), or a culture that encourages/ignores cocking the snook at one’s colleagues.
Character is what surfaces when (you think): (1) people aren’t looking; (2) it’s easy to look the other way; and (3) zero consequences exist for poor behavior (or possibly even a punishment for doing the right thing). For bullies, nice people gnaw at their inklings to reciprocate, resulting in their avoiding the very people who helped them, or worse yet, deliberately harming those who provided benefit* – if they see a no cost bonus to themselves in so doing.
It takes effort to go against the grain, but little to lean on those from whom you anticipate no push-back. Civility entails the promotion of others – as opposed to a self-centered, greedy, grasping demeanor that usurps from other persons.
*Gouldner (1960) discusses the “norm” of reciprocity; see Gouldner, A.W. (1960). The norm of reciprocity: A preliminary statement. American Sociological Review, 25:161-178.