Compliments of rwhgould via Flickr

Workplace bullying is minimized because its scars are unseen – only felt and experienced by the recipients of bad behavior. As Matthiesen and Einersen (2004) explain, PTSD from a bullying incident can approximate the psychological impact of rape. The feelings of violation from being manhandled (particularly in a public forum) can last for a lifetime.

Organizations are reluctant to punish bullies. The laissez faire that catapulted this country to greatness has (in some instances) been constructed on the backs of abused persons. What if workplace frustration (and feelings of personal failing) were channeled differently, as in efforts to improved flawed process? I think that bullying occurs because perpetrators themselves feel abashed – passed over, put down, and squelched by soulless systems.

Culture then is the enabler of malicious acts. As a result, our race toward corporate earnings must be tempered with a responsibility toward those making the profit. “Doing the right thing” has been characterized as corporate civic duty to outside constituencies (and not as a mandate to ethically treat employees). Social responsibility turned inward is proactively tuned toward workers’ well-being.

The enactment and enforcement of civility policies, putting others first, thinking before speaking, and the divestiture of egoic pride are the hallmarks of companies in which community is palpable. In places where employees feel loved, work progresses seemingly of its own accord – and projects proceed like they were seamlessly orchestrated. The conductor is of course the invisible organizational fabric, the product of a top management which refuses to accept disrespectful discourse. Such a transformation results from attention, action, and the willingness to do what’s difficult.

Civil culture is anomalous because it requires caretaking and the concern of leadership. If firms were truly interested in corporate profit and public image, they would make bullying zero tolerance their first priority.

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

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