October 3, 2013


Doug Lawrence






This morning I had a great conversation with a colleague who shared with me his story. It was a great conversation from the perspective of providing a venue for him to vent and vent he definitely needed to do. He shared with me what he is experiencing and it was sad to hear that he was being treated so poorly as he does have great leadership potential. The picture that came to mind was of a cat playing with its prey – slapping it from side to side and daring it to try and escape before it would pounce on it one more time. My colleague is in a similar situation.

Needless to say my blood was boiling after our conversation and maybe this is my vent. Approximately 40% of Canadian workers experience bullying on a weekly basis. In the United States work place bullying is 4 times more prevalent than sexual harassment. As you look at the statistics globally they all pretty much say the same thing – bullying is a common theme in most work places.

We don't think of the impact that this has on people and why would we when our employees are nothing more than a commodity that we can play with torturing and tormenting them until we drive them out of the organization. Even worse we create such turmoil in their lives that they become sick and then we find reasons to get rid of them as they are not productive enough – lost productivity that we as leaders and organizations have contributed to. What causes me even more concern is the impact that has on an employee's family as they too suffer from this cat and mouse game. This kind of environment does not breed an efficient working culture (click here if you want to learn about how you might achieve one), instead it often has the opposite effect. It turns those that end up staying against you, doing the bare minimum, and becoming desperate to leave.

Imagine waking up in the morning and asking yourself what torture will I be subjected to today and do I really want to go through that. Imagine the image that this creates for our children who will be entering the work force in the not too distant future.

An organization that tolerates this behavior or more than likely adopts the ostrich syndrome and buries its head in the sand is an organization that should really think about its culture or lack thereof. Their selection of leaders in the organization should not be based on tenure but more importantly on leadership talent and skills. Sure they can say that their leaders get results but at what cost. Is there satisfaction in leading by fear and intimidation? Is there satisfaction in having a high turnover rate and seeing all your "A" team leaving the organization for cultures that are better elsewhere? They will leave – because they can.

I asked myself how this particular leader evolved to where we are today. I shudder to think of whom they worked for and what attributed to the learned behaviour that we are now seeing. Why did the organization and its senior leaders not put into place a program to better train and prepare people for leadership roles in the organization?

Leaders such as the one that I have described will struggle in the future as the old style of leading – whether it be command and control and/or fear and intimidation will not be sufficient to lead organizations and people into the future. Retaining quality talent will be a challenge in tight labor markets and this style of leadership will fail.

In the meantime it is still painful to see valuable assets to an organization be bullied and treated as though they were commodities. Organizations need to take a look at leadership selection and leadership development – sooner than later. We do need to have a positive work culture – one that supports learning and development on an ongoing basis. We do need to introduce mentoring and coaching into the organization and ensure that it has a part to play in the leadership development program. A word to the wise – make sure you implement mentoring correctly as I have seen what happens when it is not. Just think of this situation that I have just described!

We need to embrace the "power of mentoring", "Can we afford not to?"





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