April 3, 2013

Puppetry of the Meanest

bulliesCorporate bullies.

I’m fed up with them.

In 2006, Sarah J. Tracy, Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik and Jess K. Alberts published an influential paper entitled “Metaphors of Workplace Bullying: Nightmares, Demons, and Slaves: Exploring the Painful” in the Management Communication Quarterly.

In it the authors note:

Based on qualitative data gathered from focus groups, narrative interviews, and target drawings, the analysis describes how bullying can feel like a battle, water torture, nightmare, or noxious substance. Abused workers frame bullies as narcissistic dictators, two-faced actors, and devil figures. Employees targeted with workplace bullying liken themselves to vulnerable children, slaves, prisoners, animals, and heartbroken lovers.

I hope you weren’t drinking tea when you read that as it might now be all over your laptop or device.

Seven years later, I’m not all that certain our workplaces have completely eliminated – or even partially eliminated – workplace bullying.

To me, it’s another term for ‘command and control’.

Leaders who believe it’s their managerial right to flash the “I have a more senior title than you” card in favour of getting a decision to go in their favour are in fact corporate bullies.

Leaders who poach internal employees from your team without being proactive and discussing the opportunity or situation in advance with you are corporate bullies.

Leaders who ridicule or berate employees in open meetings – whether on a conference call or face-to-face – are corporate bullies.

Leaders who make impossible demands on deadlines, who set up their staff for inevitable failure, are corporate bullies.

Leaders who take credit for the positive results an individual or team created without said leaders involvement, are corporate bullies.

I’m in the midst of writing the second book. You can see where this is going.

Corporate bullying is a problem. We might coin these types of leaders as ‘Puppetry of the Meanest’.

4 Replies to “Puppetry of the Meanest”

  1. Hi Dan:
    Leaders who engage in “performance punishment,” holding back employees (the ones that go the extra mile, know their job inside and out, provide excellent service and get excellent feedback) because they’re “too good” at what they do, are corporate bullies.

  2. Dan, I always like to see posts that look at adult bullying. Well, not really, I don’t like that I have to read about bullying, period. I find that so much focus is in school bullying as the place to make the difference with bullying. I believe we need to address bullying at the adult realm first; in the workplace, in our legal system, in global realms… these are where we set examples for our kids. If we say at school that bullying is wrong and then in many adult realms bullying is a common practice, are we really going to make a difference. Kids are way smarter than that. Sometimes I actually believe exposing kids to a little bullying is a good thing, it prepares them for what is coming as adults. Until we change our adult realms around bullying, do we really expect kids to change? Thanks for the prompt…

  3. @Jennifer – thanks for the further reading, much appreciated

    @Stacey – ‘performance punishment’ … good one

    @Peter – very well said, if kids are at home around the dinner table listening to their parents talk negative about their work situation (and bullies) what signal does that send? Furthermore — and to your point — what if kids are simply mimicking what they see? Bullying is bullying but kids have to learn it from somewhere, don’t they? (long live the Poets)

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