Compliments of J. Michael Raby via Flickr

Compliments of J. Michael Raby via Flickr

Last week I had the pleasure of hearing Miki Agrawal, who spoke at Middle Tennessee State University. Her book, Do Cool Sh*t, takes sage advice, putting it in terms millennials appreciate. One of her talking points was “Don’t talk sh*t.” A more modern take on the phrase “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.” In other words, attempt to deal with people directly instead of behind their backs.

I wholeheartedly agree. How much time is wasted (not just subtracting productivity by the addition of scuttlebutt), but on the resulting fallout from recipients of targeted smear  – who bring to the office worry, tension, sadness, and perhaps a willingness to work where people don’t behave in such a sophomoric fashion.

If an atmosphere that refuses to spread gossip/ill will/ innuendo seems foreign to you, then perhaps you’re in the wrong place. Small things emanate from small minds – and like-minded souls stick together. When was the last time someone at your place of employment gave you a compliment? Patted you on the back? Supported your endeavor? Stopped by your cube for a chat?

If you’re unable to respond in the affirmative take a hard look at your surroundings. TQM flows from the top, with good behavior modeled by corporate leaders. Organizations that foster connectedness hold managers’ feet to the fire when they behave poorly. They ensure amends are made to wronged parties.

Does your company provide ways for you to positively express yourself toward peers? Does it reward people for behaving in a civil manner and punish those who destroy the peace? Laissez-faire applied to business works, but not at the micro level where individuals may suffer.

Unlike other countries, the U.S. does not have federal anti-bullying workplace legislation.  We are as a whole reminiscent of the Wild West, in which individuals don’t wish to put strictures on business for fear that protection may hamper productivity. In The Cost of Bad Behavior, Pearson and Porath argue that a head in the sand approach is costing us the one thing business lobbies are trying hard to protect – money.

Hypervigilance, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, flashbacks, withdrawal, and decreased commitment (accompanied by increased health claims) could be the fallout. How much bully carnage must we witness before we see a groundswell in ruffian backlash? All it takes is a large enough cohort to call a congressperson, support anti-bullying legislation, introduce a bill, refuse to be a silent witness, and support someone who is a bully target for bad behavior to diminish.

Be a citizen advocate in your own sphere of influence. Next time you see someone set a verbal conflagration, don’t simply stand there. Take the courageous step of doing something positive for those who are not present to defend themselves. Tell the bully to take their marbles and go home.

If you’re a supervisor, fix it: don’t fertilize it.

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

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