Bullying is like Second Hand Smoke

Bullying is like Second Hand Smoke

Post from: MAPpingCompanySuccess

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stella12/5965578953/How do you feel when you see or hear about a boss who bully his people—even if it isn’t your boss?

New research shows that the effects are similar whether the bullying is direct or second hand.

I read about the research last month on Dan McCarthy’s Great Leadership blog. He does a great job of summarizing the study, including quotes from it. (The full study must be purchased.)

Like second hand smoke, second hand bullying destroys and even kills—not the body, but the spirit.

“When vicarious abusive supervision is present, employees realize that the organization is allowing this negative treatment to exist, even if they are not experiencing it directly,” the researchers said.

Another recent study documents the long-term damage that affects both the bullied and their tormentors.

“It documents the elevated risk across a wide range of mental health outcomes and over a long period of time,” said Catherine Bradshaw, an expert on bullying and a deputy director of the Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence at Johns Hopkins University, which was not involved in the study. “The experience of bullying in childhood can have profound effects on mental health in adulthood, particularly among youths involved in bullying as both a perpetuator and a victim.”

And running into past bullies, even after 25 years, can cause anxiety and lead to questions about how to act.

I’ve written previously regarding the serious disengagement caused by a bullying culture and about bosses who aren’t role models.
Most managers assume that firing the bully fixes things, but these studies prove that isn’t the case and the termination certainly doesn’t rebuild trust in an organization that allowed it in the first place.

Bullying isn’t always obvious and may even resemble coaching at first glance, so it’s wise to take a second look and occasionally revisit the players just to be sure.

Obviously, it’s best to nip bullying in the bud and doing that takes vigilance—vigilance and the courage to act, whether it’s in your own organization or not.

That’s part of the job description for bosses at every level.

Flickr image credit: Deb Nystrom

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