Leaders and bullies

Many moons ago, my confidence was at its lowest. For a few years my leader had convinced me that I was worthless. I remember the feeling of hate I had for my job and at the same time how lucky I felt to have that job, because I was so useless that nobody in their right mind would give me another chance.

If you know me well and read this, you’re probably thinking that this is a fictional story, in fact I am an extremely (too much some say) confident person. But no, this is the truth, I was at my lowest and the reason was that my leader had bullied me into a ghost.

When, after years of pain, through the help of a colleague and the support of my friends I saw what was happening to me and realised the psychological violence I had been subjected to, I decided that leaving the company was not enough and I wanted to do the right thing by coming clean on what had happened.

I went to talk to my leader’s boss and explained what happened. By then I had an overwhelming amount of data that unequivocally proved that systematic psychological warfare had been used against me. Not only me for that matter, other people were receiving the same treatment.

My leader’s boss was very sympathetic and said that I was not the first one that reported that behaviour. He also ensured he was going to act upon my complaint.

Little I knew, he was playing a game. He delayed and delayed his intervention, once even faking that his flight had been cancelled on the day we were meant to meet Human Resources (I checked with the airport and no flights had been cancelled that morning). That Same day i had to go to a doctor, because my depression had reached a point in which I was unable to face going to work.

Eventually, tired, disappointed and broken, I decided to simply leave it as it was as I knew i was trapped between a bully and a spineless bully enabler.

That was that, i left and life went on.

Nobody loves a bully, bullies are massive problems for organisations, but worse than bullies are unhelpful knowing managers that by not acting and stopping the bullying perpetuate a culture that accepts it.

If people are afraid to talk about things, true leaders will investigate and find out why it is happening and when they find out that the problem is a bully, they will act promptly. If I found out that one of my people was a bully, i would try to help him trough coaching, and if it didn’t work I would have to defend the other people and the bully would have to go, no two ways about it.

When a leader does not act firmly, also sends a signal to his people that bullying is ok. When this happens, bullying becomes part of the organisational culture. Leaders, it is your responsibility to make that not happen.