Posted by Steve Botham
August 9th, 2012 | No Comments »
I was hearing the tale recently of a newly appointed CEO who started to put his hand out like a Policeman stopping the traffic to curtail discussion in his meetings. At first his colleagues thought it was a high five gesture but soon realised it was a way to control his team. They felt the cold air of a new culture and leadership style and the organisation is beginning to see raised staff turnover .
Psychologists refer to displaced aggression. It is prevalent in primates where dominant animals attack inferior animals and the inferior animal then attacks an even more inferior animal.
In organisations dominance can come through hierarchies, high technical knowledge, speed of working, personal confidence and impact etc. Bullying comes when people misuse their dominance to undermine others. Nobody admits to bullying – we rationalise it and call it “being more hands on”, or” more directive”, or “sharpening performance”.
In times of challenge and pressure bullying inevitably increases as people at the top or technical specialists transfer their stresses to others. Ironically this is rarely productive - people under stress can perform wonderfully when encouraged and enabled. Under bullying the culture will only ever be compliant, proactivity and innovation will be stifled and the workplace will be constrained and joyless.
Some bullies are naturals - they always feel others are inferior to them and deserve to be treated with disrespect. Others can dip in and out of bullying. We allow our stress to tip over to others and become more aggressive, less tolerant, more demanding and - perhaps unconsciously we become the bullies. More bullying about? Almost certainly. In stressful times we need to monitor our stress to ensure our staff and colleagues don’t feel we are the new bullies on the block