Bullying Behavior Is Still in the Air … Clear It Out

Nasty and demeaning behavior is alive and well in the workplace today. It’s not exclusive to gender and breeds easily. In fact, the bad economy acts as a breeder.The Susans (and Sams) of the workplace who practice the art of being pit bulls, bullies and jerks are the latest topic of author and management consultant Robert Sutton. In his best-selling book, The No #$%hole Rule (Warner Business Books), he identifies his “dirty dozen”—common, everyday actions that #$%holes typically use:

 Personal insults
 Invading one’s “personal territory”
 Uninvited physical contact
 Threats and intimidation—either verbal and/or non-verbal
 Sarcastic jokes and teasing used to insult
 Withering e-mail flames
 Status slaps intended to humiliate the recipient
 Public shaming or “status degradation” rituals
 Rude interruptions
 Two-faced attacks
 Dirty looks
 Treating people as if they are invisible

So, what do you do with a Susan or a Sam—who may be a boss or a co-worker?

If you are a manager, and not the pit bull, start quantifying what the behavior is costing you. How much time do you spend dealing with the employee that is an outcome of their behavior? How much is spent with staff that is the recipient of the bully’s output? Have HR professionals been called in—what’s their time worth? Have you had to interact with those senior to you? Is overtime paid out that could be tied to last minute demands or not getting things done? Has counseling been required? Have others quit because of the bully—what are your recruitment, replacement, and retraining costs? Could this person’s behavior contribute to lower productivity among other workers, even causing some to toss in the towel and transfer or quit?

The moneys mount up. Just replacing someone can cost you between one to three times an annual salary! Loss productivity factors in both reduced output, the need for overtime or temp help and added stress to staff. Few people say that the reason they are terminating is because of a specific person, it’s usually “a better opportunity,” “more pay” (even if it’s a nickel an hour more), or “less of a commute.”

Pit bulls (with and without lipstick) and bullies are key causes of good people exiting a workplace. Keeping them can have staggering costs. In the multiple worklace studies that I’ve done for my books (the latest is in Stabotage! How to Deal with the Pit Bulls, Skunks, Snakes, Scorpions & Slugs in the Health Care Workplace), over 51% reported that they had quit jobs because of the toxic behavior of their co-workers and bosses.

Unless their contributions are worth mega millions to your workplace and it would vaporize without them, it’s time to end it. The sooner, the better

Sutton advises, “Don’t hire #$%holes and don’t let them get away with it.”

For employees, he encourages them to change the “norms”—what’s acceptable and non-acceptable among co-workers; to get out; or create an attitude of indifference toward them.

In my own research and work with organizations, I know that the more confidence you display (even faking it), the less likely these creeps will attack you. Why?—it becomes too much work on their part to bug and/or pull you down.

When a company allows and enables rotten behavior, they support bad business practices and tell their workers they don’t count. Dumb.

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