compliments of M Reza Faisal via Flickr

In a recent WBI blog post, Namie (director of the Workplace Bullying Institute) stated: “It’s getting harder to find apologists among the sports cognoscenti at ESPN to defend the Miami Dolphins designated bully Ricky Incognito.” As experience informs policy, resulting behavior becomes gentler. Low expectations lead to tolerance and looking the other way.

Modeling is a necessary, but insufficient component of respectful workplace culture. Policy, training, sanctions, modifications to the reward structure (e.g., ones that promote being kind to your peers) and perhaps a 360 degree appraisal are components of a civil package. Companies get the culture they deserve. If the behavioral component has been on coast and those watching the store have been on hold, something unseemly will emerge. Small things left unchecked grow larger as they collect adherents. Correspondingly, one small speck can morph into a large steaming mound. Negative momentum can only be reversed by an equally opposing force.

At the workplace, this is management. Laissez-faire style is appropriate where everyone is playing by an across the board people centered play book. Under any other conditions, it’s a breeding ground for bullies. Delinquents result from a dearth of do-gooders at work – particularly those in the executive suite.

Managers need to be proactive. Just as they benchmark competitors for best practices, they should visit firms known for enacting civil cultures. What do these organizations do differently, and have their programs been linked with greater productivity, worker contentment, fewer health claims, and more positive work environments? Empirical study of civil culture will provide a stronger case for the large remainder of “uncivil” firm outlaws.

A starting point is taking stock of where you are. How do employees feel about the way they’re treated by management and by their peers? One on one interviews, focus groups led by third parties, and a general investigation into what’s transpiring provide a baseline for what needs to occur. One locker room incident can thus be contained before it explodes into a nationally recognized problem.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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