Office bullies thrive in climate of bad management

ROTTEN behaviour and office bullying will only flourish in a climate of bad management.

While bullies and their henchmen should always be punished for their actions, there are three types of managers that help create a toxic work environment. And they’re not all as evil as you think.

Psychologist and bullying expert Dr Moira Jenkins outlines the worst offenders:

1. The barbecue buddy

This is the individual who probably never fitted in at school, was rejected from “the cool group” at university and has been trying to hang with the popular kids ever since. They are not mean, just weak, and are desperate to share a beer with staff and become “just one of the guys.”

The problem is, potential bullies know that they can get away with murder because the man or woman at the top is too scared to enforce the law for fear of getting off-side with their “friends”.

“Barbecue managers want to get on with all their staff and don’t address things that are not right,” Dr Jenkins says.

“These sorts of managers will allow sexist or racist jokes to happen.”

2. The fishbowl phantom

They live in a mystical place called the “fishbowl office” where they are isolated and practically invisible to most employees.

They take pride in being very busy people and don’t have time for trifling matters like staff complaints and genuine office culture issues.

Problem is, traumatised bullying victims are too scared to approach them for fear of wasting their time or appearing trivial.

Or when they are approached, they dismiss the problem as harmless office politics.

Dr Jenkins explains why mangers need to ensure there is a healthy office culture.

“They are the managers who are authoritarian and everybody knows you can’t speak to about things or won’t communicate with staff,” she says.

“Bullying starts off subtly and low and then escalates. You don’t want to wait for something to get to the threshold of bullying before you address it. You need to deal with it early.”

Dr Jenkins adds that these sorts of mangers can be held vicariously liable in bullying court proceedings if they are seen to have ignored either staff complaints or a toxic workplace culture.

3. The kneejerk

The manger with an unstable self-esteem, combined with an inability to handle office change and take constructive criticism, creates a perfect storm for office bullying.

Similar to their fishbowl friend, the knee-jerks are also difficult to approach.

“These mangers have an unstable self esteem,” Dr Jenkins says.

“They are the managers who work well until they are challenged and when they are challenged they become highly defensive.

“They are highly sensitive and unstable when challenged. If they have to performance manage a staff member they become quite authoritarian.

“When changes are happening and staff are unable to cope with the changes, instead of being able to talk through difficult issues with staff and listen to them and admit they are wrong, they become highly defensive and they have to be right. It’s an unstable sense of self.”

Source: Dr. Jenkins June 24, 2013.

Posted in Leadership, People and tagged , , , .

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