A Comment for Bob Sutton from Reader ChrisRobert Sutton
I recognised that the Asshole problem was fuelled by a workplace imbalance of power, and decided to take a stand.
Firstly, I challenged the Human Relations policymakers to change their Bullying policy into a Zero-Tolerance-of-Bullying policy. No problems, ‘that’s what they meant anyway’, even though annual employee surveys showed 20%+ incidence of workplace bullying.
Next, I joined the union and started to listen more to fellow workmates who’d become disconnected, disinterested & lethargic, all because of the SAME asshole manager, and he was my manager.
Initially, he gave me a wide berth, bullying only those more vulnerable than me. Still, I thought, I’ll document all our pointed workplace exchanges, you know, the one-liners that seem so inconsequential at the time.
I was alarmed that there was an emerging trend, so I started to counter the innocuous one-liners, responding with flippancy to flippancy.
To an Asshole manager, this is a major challenge to their power base, and he came after me, ‘all guns blazing’. I kept a level head, documented each incident, told him the bullying was inappropriate and lodged the grievances with the union and HR dept. Then a curious outcome developed.
Senior management responded that they were helping this guy work through his issues, and that he’d been subject to a number of previous staff complaints. No wonder there had been very quiet, quick severances in the past. But, wait a minute, this bullying was therefore endemic; it was known and tolerated by the powers that be.
The union asked me how far I wanted to go,and I responded “as far as it goes to stop the bullying”. I had to stop seeing this as a 1-on-1 personal issue between the Asshole and me.
7 months later, an in-camera meeting between the union, management and the 7 bullied staff, where I was offered a contract payout. Management trying to bribe me, in front of all the people who had sustained me throughout this battle with the Asshole System.
I said I wouldn’t respond, and went away to agonise over this. How could I leave my fellow-bullieds behind? Anyway, I took the money, but didn’t sever my relations with the union or my the workmates. I’m running 3rd in their footy tipping competition at the moment, visit them in their office from time-to-time, and the union’s quarantined my membership dues until I can find another job.
The Asshole manager is still in the workplace, but his autonomy is gone because the union has a fully-documentated bullying case over the guy. Senior managers are scrambling to implement their succession plans, as their dominance of workplace power is tarnished - all have seen the endemic bullying in its most hideous form, and realise that it takes each and every bullied person to make a stand.