Thursday, 25 February 2010

Do Business Bullies Win?

The debate about alleged bullying at Number 10 has got me thinking about bullying bosses in the business world and I am in danger of drawing the conclusion that bullying bosses often win the battle! What do you think?

Business bullying takes many forms. I've seen managers who shout and swear at their staff and suppliers. I've worked with the subtle psycological bully that wears you down and leaves you in tears. Jovial bullies who steamroller right over the top of you whilst smiling and laughing. Nasty pieces of work who get a kick out of making your life hell in the office. They are all out there in the business world and if you are going to hunt in the business jungle you are going to encounter these hateful beasts, so steel youself and figure out how you are going to deal with them.

The sad truth is that over and over again I've seen these people rise to the top. I know an entrepreneur who literally screams out loud at his staff, kicks over the flipchart if the meeting isn't going well and f's and blind's at suppliers just because he can. What happened to him? Sold his company for tens of millions, that's what. I know City traders who hurl keyboards across the room at support staff. What happens? They collect multi-million pound bonuses. I've worked with smooth snake-like operators who slither to the top leaving wrecked careers in their wake. Sure, stupid bullies get their come-uppance. But the smart bully bosses often barge their way to the front. It's a shame.

But what can we do about it? Become a business bully yourself? An eye for an eye? No, that's not the right route. If we go down that path, the whole world ends up blind. Confront the bully head on? Yes, definitely. We must drive this awful behaviour out of the world of business. But pick your fights carefully. You have to be smart in this business game and this isn't Tom Brown's Schooldays. If you stand up to the bully and punch him on the nose, he might not run away crying. He might wait for you in an alley with a baseball bat.


Tim Trent said...

Fighting a bully who is your line manager is unwinnable, of course. I won in the end because I got a decent redundancy settlement, but not before the dear sweet lady had caused me ill health through stress.

Lodging a complaint with Personnel is pointless. That's rather like asking for your P45. Personnel work for the corporation and natural justice has nothing to do with their remit.

So yes, business bullies win. They prosper and grow fat and rich because they can.

We decent folk must just recognise that and use avoidance strategies.

Unoma said...

Advice given to me by the biggest bully I know (and I'm tough):

"Don't fight with pigs because you get covered in s**t and they like that"

Anonymous said...

Fighting a bully who is your line manager can have a good result. I spent a year working for a complete tyrant. In the end, having tried all the ways I could possibly think of to resolve the issue I resigned. Fortunately for me, my CEO wanted to know why I was leaving. I told the truth. Huge credit goes to my CEO, as the end result was the bully was fired and I stayed on. The atmosphere in the organisation improved dramatically, staff churn rate became much healthier and people felt more freedom to try things out (and make mistakes - always happens when you're making improvements). One thing I have noticed is that people are reluctant to disclose the real reasons why they decided to leave a company, usually passing on what they are going for (more money, better role, closer to home, etc.) and not what caused them to decide to leave. My advice is if you are leaving, tell the truth. Don't worry about burning bridges. Do your friends a colleagues who you're leaving behind a favour. And my advice to managers is when you're doing an exit interview ask the question "what caused you to start looking for a new job?".

Tim Trent said...

I won after being graciously allowed to leave. But exit interviews didn't exist. So I did it by email and the bully was terminated shortly afterwards. However she had ensured that I would never be invited to return because she damaged my employment record.

Anonymous said...

'If you stand up to the bully and punch him on the nose, he might not run away crying. He might wait for you in an alley with a baseball bat.'

^^ Am I right in guessing that the bully would want to make it up to you by playing a nice friendly game of baseball?

Anonymous said...

there are ways and means to get your own back on business bullies, seek others they have bullied in the past, strength in numbers, as a group go to the papers, business's dont like bad publicity,picket outside the premises and their home and their children's schools,treat them how they treated you.You can damaged they're reputation by spreading the word.....
So they may think twice before doing it to someone else. and remember no-one is above the law no matter what position they have... if the prime minister can be question regarding bullying then so can a business bully. do not resort to criminal activity or harassment as then you could be facing a law suit but word gets around pretty fast and before you know it other business's wont want to be associated with them and in end may end in their falling.

David said...

Tom, One aspect that I think is worthy of some consideration is what strong and established colleagues can and should do in the presence of a bully. As we know bully's have a strong instinct for know who they can and cannot bully. Those beyond bullying because of position or strength should make it their business to kept an eye out for such hideous behaviour. Providing support for those being bullied as well as investing some of their strength and profile to combat it. Such individuals are likely to also have the politic guile and contacts which the individual on the receiving end may not have.


Peter Muriuki said...

Hi Tom,
I'm a bit late to this one, but it's very interesting post.

I've pondered this one myself and the whole question of whether or not it takes a person with a little of the bully in them to actually rise to the top in the first place.

I guess I've worked with any enough bosses that are well balanced people to demonstrate that it's not the only way up, but it doesn't seem to hurt either.