"Many of these bullies are praised for similar behavior, under different circumstances. They're pushy, they're ruthless, cunning and they'll do whatever it takes to get ahead, to win -- and that helps them succeed and the business succeed," says Namie.
"It's true more often than not in the workplace that bullies 'fail up.' The challenge in a workplace is that a lot of times, the same qualities that make aggressive, nasty bullies also make them quite good at their job. If they're high performers, great salespeople, major earners, that's all the company's looking at. And, so, the victim's fighting an uphill battle to get the company to see past that person's performance," Moriarty says.
How to take action
One way to address the problem is through a corporate ethics and compliance officer, or a team dedicated to that function. However, this position or team must report either to the CEO, the highest echelons of leadership, or to a board of directors to ensure it's operating apolitically, fairly and objectively, according to Moriarty.
"An ethics officer, or a team of ethics and compliance specialists, must be an independent body; they have to be able to make hard, objective decisions -- like firing or disciplining a bully -- and have those enforced without being overruled or dismissed because of office politics or financial concerns," says Moriarty.
Organizations should have a reporting process in place, too, and be prepared to offer anonymity for victims. However, doing so can make investigating claims of bullying more difficult.
"Most organizations would prefer you go to your manager, but if that's not possible -- sometimes, they are the bully -- then, go to human resources. Public companies often have a hotline or a reporting structure in place so they can track complaints and work to address them," says Moriarty. If those options aren't available, or aren't effective, there may be legal recourse victims can take outside of the corporate structure, Namie says.
WBI statistics show that even when bullies are reported, approximately 44 percent of businesses do not take any action to rectify the situation, but while this willful ignorance might help companies in the short term, it's ignoring the long-term effects and far-reaching impact of the behavior according to Moriarty.
"Businesses that do nothing are trading short-term gain for long-term pain, as I like to say. By the time they understand the damage that's being done to their productivity, their retention and their public reputation, it's much too late. Employees won't ever forget that; they'll always remember that your company chose to do what was financially right over what was morally right, and your business will suffer for it," says Moriarty.
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