Bullies and Scapegoats
Bullies and Scapegoats
Julie was visibly upset so I asked her what the problem was. I’m going to lose my job, she replied. I was surprised. Just a few weeks ago she told me that she had a performance review. Everything was fine. Her manager and her manager’s boss praised her work ethic and even talked about giving her a raise. Now, a short time later, her job is in jeopardy. What could have happened? How could my friend Julie have screwed up so badly in such a short period of time?
Turned out that Julie didn’t screw up. She didn’t do anything wrong. Her supervisors needed a scapegoat and it was her turn. The numbers were down so they needed to blame someone or something. They needed to be able to show management that they were on top of the situation. The easiest way to do that is to blame someone else and fire them. That’s what psychopaths and bullies do. Rather than try to figure out a solution to the problem, or heaven forbid, try to fix it, they find a sacrificial lamb.
I once worked for a company president who was like that. If I had a nickel for every time I heard him say, “we had some problems but the people who caused them are gone”, I’d be a rich man. I’m not a psychologist so I don’t know what makes bullies and psychopaths tick. I do know some of the behaviors that are common to them. Most of them blame others when things don’t go well. There was a vice president of sales who was known in the industry as Teflon Man … nothing bad ever stuck to him.
Unfortunately when bullies have power over people they can cause untold suffering to their employees. Most people today need their jobs. They can’t afford to be unemployed for even a short period of time. The constant fear of losing their jobs can cause severe anxiety and even health problems. Please note that I have no problem with firing per se. Some people deserve to be fired but, even for them, there is such a thing as due process. It does not include fear and intimidation.
The WBI Definition of Workplace Bullying
WBI lists some characteristics and consequences of bullying in the workplace:
- Workplace bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons by one or more perpetrators.
- It is abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating or intimidating.
- It can include verbal abuse
- It is driven by the perpetrator’s need to control the targeted individual.
- It undermines legitimate business interests when bullies’ personal agendas take precedence over work itself.
Regardless of what makes bullies tick they have no business managing people. Apart from the pain and angst that they cause to the people who work for them, they hurt the bottom line. As morale suffers so does productivity. Their victims eventually move on to other jobs. Some get fired, others just quit. The cost of hiring and training new employees is huge. My friend Julie found another job. As she was leaving a colleague said to her, “I’m happy for you. Now you can work with humans.”
Oliver Connolly coaches and mentors sales managers and vice presidents of sales. To earn more please go to http://www.clevelstrategic.com