Let’s imagine that your best friend tells you this. “I have a partner who I love and I know they love me its just that they want me to be better than I am so they yell at me and belittle me in front of others, and I feel really worthless after it happens”. Most good friends would say “they don’t love you this is abuse!” and if it went further and it was physical, we would do just about anything to support them to leave. But psychological abuse is as detrimental and what’s worse we often can’t see it until it’s already done the damage.
Now let’s just change one fact in the above scenario. It’s the friend’s boss or work colleague. Now you probably say it depends. If it is a colleague, we tell them to ignore them or find strategies to deal with it. If it’s their boss we call them an idiot or a jerk and we say you should look for another job or we wonder if there is something else behind it. Maybe they are difficult at work, have dropped the ball and not delivered, perhaps they are not as competent as we first thought. So we start to question our friend. Have they done this, tried that, what lead to it, and we help them to strategise to stay.
Its time to get more serious about the problem though. Organisations need to realize that where there is smoke there is at least burning embers. High turnover, people constantly working back, being in tears, looking over stretched, people constantly reworking things or people who are micro managed when it could be expected that they could do the job are all the tell tale signs.
Its time we recognize that we all deserve to work in places that respect our skills, our needs and us as people. The workplace bully is no different to the abusive spouse. They create relationships that are dysfunctional where there is an imbalance of power and organisations are great places for these people to hide. Traditionally these people hide out under the guise of management.
There is a media interest too. While books have been around about dealing with problem people at work for some time, recently there is a move to suggest that some of these difficult people may in deed be psychopaths (Snakes in suits, Working with Monsters and the Pocket psycho). And we have even tried to turn the problem into amusement through writings such as the Devil wears Prada. It’s interesting indeed that there has been a recent increase in the reporting of workplace bullying. Now one might argue that its all part of the changes to the workplace relations law (workchoices) or it could be that we are just saying enough is enough. It seems to me that it’s probably a combination. Now I don’t want to just dismiss the workplace relations link, but it is time we say enough is enough.
Everyday in my practice we see people who have been bullied. So I am going to open a dialogue about it. You can post your comments on open discussion or email me for a confidential review. Let’s get serious about understanding and resolving the problem.