Our anonymous blogger considers the business impact of the workplace bully
In my time I have worked for senior managers who have been thought of as a bully, but who actually weren’t. Such misconceptions are generally founded in the manager having little social empathy. They have a focus that makes them oblivious to slights and hurtful comments (whether intended or not) and so have little concept of how others may need some kind of emotional consideration. I have no problem with working for such folk as there is no malicious intent behind their approach. True, one has to recognise this and be able to make such allowances, but the knowledge that it is a mere by-product of a particular mindset (to me) makes it acceptable.
However in my last place of employ I came up against the true bully. Being a fellow at the very top of the tree he could get away with it, which is the first problem with creatures of this ilk. Whether through aptitude or wealth they can rise to such lofty heights whilst still having this fatal flaw in their character. Either way they are difficult to deal with, certainly if us mere mortals are to consider challenging them then we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If we succeed there is the spectre of the “trouble maker” label being permanently attached. If unsuccessful (and given their influence this has to be the most likely option) then what future is there within the company or further afield? Bullying brings the all important and pervasive maliciousness with it, your whole career path is possibly at risk.
The second problem is that these bullies cannot be challenged, their problem lies in an arrogance that must see their opinion as being paramount. So long as they keep generally making the right decisions, or at least their wrong decisions are able to be passed off as ill fortune, then they can get away with it.
The “yes man” is of no use apart from the flattery of those who need them to prop up a fragile ego
You may wonder if this is a problem so long as the company makes a profit but how much better could it do if the opinions of others are listened to? In my situation there was a layer of very capable senior staff, but at the meetings a general shuffling of feet and murmured comments showed their overarching desire to appease the “big man” rather than bring their own individual expertise to bear. How much lost value and lost opportunities for the company has this brought about over the years I wonder? The “yes man” is of no use apart from the flattery of those who need them to prop up a fragile ego.
When it became obvious that unquestioning obeisance was not my style, and I could not be browbeaten into it, my days were numbered. So, dear reader, I left. I maintain extremely good relations with my immediate boss from those days and am now somewhere that is far better, and for a lot of reasons. Their loss I’d say – again.