Balancing act: Readers dispute prevalence of workplace bullying
"We live in a society where we are quick to anger and slow to understand. Employees don't take time to get to know their co-workers and see them as people. Others are obstacles for us, so we think we can treat them badly."
This is one of the reasons I've always been a proponent of team-building activities. When the members of a team know at least something about each other's lives outside of work, they tend to relate to each other better and are more sensitive to people's strengths and weaknesses. Not only does this make for a more pleasant work environment, but it also tends to improve productivity.
This point was supported by an email I received from a reader named Michael.
"I worked for a high-tech software company where we sold as a team," Michael wrote. "One of the sales engineers disliked me for some reason, I believe because he knew I was a sales guy with no technical background and would ultimately make more money than he would. He held great power over the sales.
"He would belittle me in front of the team, threatened to withhold support on my deals, and other rude behavior. There was a pecking order in the department, so it was a difficult problem to solve. Being junior in tenure, it was not realistic to go to management. I finally ended up working around him, using other engineers on my presale efforts where that was possible."
Working around someone is one solution, but I still believe there are better ways to overcome bullying at work. An email from a reader named Tara summed up the goal here.
"Mutual respect and perspective is essential for resolving any conflict so it can hopefully be a 'win-win' scenario," Tara wrote. "Mutual respect can be comparable to eyeglasses where one lens represents one perspective, the other lens represents a different perspective. Yet too often it seems people look out of a single lens — like a telescope. They cannot see beyond their own point of view .
"If we are to progress toward obtaining a higher level of mutual respect and cooperation between people of different opinions, circumstances, political affiliations, cultures, religions, etc., that is difficult to attain unless individuals are willing to meet on common ground. ... That takes men and women being humble, respectful and gentle with each other, and focusing on what is right, not who is right."
It would be hard for bullying to thrive in a workplace that incorporated those attitudes. Let's work in that direction and hope we can build offices that are bully-free.