Back in 2014, Naomi Shavin at Forbes wrote a terrific piece on corporate bullying and highlighted a compelling statistic: 96% of respondents to a study reported that they had experienced some form of bullying in the workplace. It's clear bullying persists in the corporate world, yet very few discuss or do anything about it.
Since then, the more recent #MeToo movement has shined a spotlight on a different kind of bad behavior in the workplace, as thousands of women have come forward to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault. But is it really that different?
Bullying can take the form of verbal abuse, sabotage or interference, and/or demeaning and humiliating treatment. Unlike schoolyard bullying, due to the hierarchical nature of corporate America, it seems much easier to disguise bullying under the veil of superior rank. Unfortunately, it seems more socially acceptable to witness and experience bullying from a superior to a direct report or employee of lower title, simply because the victim is out-ranked. Bullies can thrive in this dynamic and power play, and often do.
I have never been bullied as a kid or adult but have witnessed a few incidents that occurred with friends, family, and total strangers in my personal and professional life. It is easy to turn the other cheek and, admittedly, I did the same initially, especially early on in my career. But a seminal incident with a close friend changed my perspective, and ever since I have been active about taking action with bullies. On principle, it just isn't right to allow bullying to occur and not say or do something about it. Silence and apathy are the fuel that allows bullying in any environment to exist and thrive.
If you are currently a victim of workplace bullying, or are aware of such a dynamic in your organization, take action and do something about it. Do not tolerate any abuse, report these incidents to HR, and find help. No matter the position or rank you hold, nobody deserves to be the victim of bullying in any form.
Advocacy is not an agenda I tend to pursue, whether personally or professionally. Yet, this topic is important enough to take the time to raise awareness and inspire action.
As professionals, we must adopt a zero-tolerance policy to workplace bullying. Business is challenging enough as it is. Having to work in an abusive environment is unacceptable.