At the Grammy Awards, one of the show-stoppers was not singing – it was instead a verbal description from activist Brooke Axtell on the impact of domestic abuse. Axtell states: “Authentic love does not devalue another human being. Authentic love does not silence, shame, or abuse.”
At white collar workplaces physical threats are rare, but verbal, mental, and emotional abuse that cuts like a knife may be common. Coworkers and managers who employ socialized power are concerned with developing workers. Bullies (on the other hand) take center stage, looking for someone to shove. In his book The No Asshole Rule, “Sutton begins by defining an ‘asshole’ as someone who meets two criteria: interactions with the subject leave you feeling oppressed, humiliated, de-energized, or belittled, and the subject specifically targets those less powerful than themselves.”
Bullies proclaim themselves meeting chieftains – beating their chests and bellowing to a cowed, onlooking crowd of coworkers. According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter, those who stand outside the old X network are more prone to its acid reflux. Os are left in the uncomfortable position of taking sides (or feeling more isolated), soft targets with whom X players feel safe. Selective incivility and verbal castigation are corollaries of dominant power plays at work. On a larger, more visible stage, bullies crow to their coworkers about their high and mighty status. The most vulnerable in terms of network ties are the ones who experience direct hits. Our propensity to blame victims results in a circling of the wagons, often times around the abusers. Might makes right in a system where aggression goes unchallenged. One remedy would of course be to mandate office civility – but the speedy gallop toward corporate profit and desire to “let the bons temps roll” in business leaves “soft” initiatives un-serviced.
Being nice has payoffs. For example “Living the Southwest Way” includes: ”follow[ing] The Golden Rule, put[ting] others first, demonstrat[ing] proactive Customer Service (that includes both Internal–SWA Employees–and External Customers), and embrac[ing] the SWA Family.” In 2014 Southwest was ranked as Fortune’s 9th most admired company. From the book Nuts: Southwest Airlines Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success, by Freiberg and Freiberg: “Love is slow to anger when inconvenienced. When we get in the trenches to endure difficulty or hardship, and we do it without complaining, we express our love….”
From a shear economics standpoint companies need to ask if they are served in alienating a large workforce segment. PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) realizes that diverse perspectives are not only valuable to the bottom line, but that they enrich their office as well. From Leveraging the Power of Our Differences: Diversity and Inclusion. “As you develop your cultural dexterity, you play a critical role in shaping the culture of your team, your office and the firm as a whole. You also gain a business skill that’s increasingly important in our changing world. Best of all, you can come to work and be yourself.”
Some of their gender initiatives include support for working parents, “Full Circle,” which keeps women connected to the firm during career transitions (instead of shunting them to the “slow track”), Women’s Networking Circles, “Women Upfront” career resources, and leadership development programs. Not surprisingly, PwC has been cited as one of Fortune’s 100 best companies to work for.
Bosses who use brute force may score short-term gains, but will suffer loss of productivity, turnover, tarnished reputation, absence of diverse perspectives, and possibly law suits. The Best Company to Work for List they will not make.
An inclusive net catches way more first time employees; the right atmospheric conditions keep them on board. Boom Boom rooms should be non-existent. Business should in fact be courting every force that can make it a potential powerhouse.
7 ways to spot a bully at work – time tested advice to save people torment
A kind boss pays off: empirical evidence confirms compassionate behavior pays dividends