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How do we stop bullying in organizations ? (or should we..?)

Updated: Apr 10, 2019

One of the core challenges facing organizations and institutions is our inability to assess potential (good or bad). We rely on very primitive means to determine a person's capabilities and identify anomalies in behavior, which do not "fit" with a given culture. This may be an opportunity to disrupt the HCM (human capital management) using innovation as a catalyst for change. Bullying is one of many behavioral traits that can be destructive in any situation. Everyone knows it when they see it, but this is very difficult to "prove". In a corporate setting, there are always folks who know how to "game" the system using manipulation techniques (some very subtle by seasoned practitioners and others blatant and abusive). Both are destructive as they drive personal / narrowly focused agendas. The more subtle ones are typically used to control who & what & when (women are keenly aware of these due to the inequities in opportunity, pay, and the ability to influence decision makers).

So, we've been using more & more "test" to detect and identify these behaviors and have managed to "weed out" the clumsier practitioners who bully / manipulate. But, there is little if any effect on those who manipulate (on all levels) with great skill and effectiveness. Do we continue trying to refine our techniques in pursuit of these behaviors or could we reframe the problem ?

When organizations are income focused, they tend to emphasize and reward behaviors that promote short-term thinking, product-centricity, and bottom line at all costs (pun intended). This is a culture that promotes and rewards ANY behavior that helps them achieve their goals. Notice I have not used the term "values" since these types of organizations do not live their values so they really are only posted for employees not necessarily the decision makers and leadership. This is essentially, the 1920's industrial model of management built upon the foundation of competition.

When organizations become outcome focused, they tend to emphasize and reward behaviors that promote long-term thinking, customer-centricity (w/in & w/out), and delivering sustainable value. This is a culture that promotes and rewards the right behaviors since that is the only way they can achieve their goals. This is an emerging model based on a collaborative foundation and we are only now beginning to understand how to leverage this evolve & shape the culture through innovative rewards / incentive programs.

It's not perfect and we will always have the short-term practitioners who only know how to advance through manipulation, but I do believe they become marginalized in this more collaborative model. Their behaviors limit their ability to achieve outcome focused goals and objectives. I believe changing the way the focus of the organization from a competitive model to a collaborative model may be a better approach than expending cycles to focus on individuals and attempting to isolate the wrong behaviors.

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