Stand Up Against Bullying: A blog to help stop workplace bullying
Organizations Leadership

The Nature of Organizations Can Hinder Solutions Bully Culture

Original Publication Date: July 27, 2016; Edited and Republished August 15, 2022

As the awareness of workplace bullying increases, we may see an increase in organizations attempting to intervene. However, the mere nature of organizations and bureaucracies impact their ability to effectively intervene, stop, and prevent bully culture.

Once an issue is identified in an organization, there are policies, procedures, and decision-making processes that are followed.  However, these often lend themselves to long time periods in which little to no progress is made to solve or identify solutions.

If there are policies and procedures in place to address workplace bullying, they are often not followed. Most organizations do not have any policies related to workplace bullying so organizations use policies that the believe are close, such as conflict resolution policies. Unfortunately, these types of policies increase workplace bullying rather than stop or prevent it.

Also, policies and procedures used to address the issue may lend themselves to long time periods in which little to no progress is made to solve or identify solutions. For example, a committee may be developed to address issues around workplace bullying with the goal to develop solutions. However, one of the biggest problems with committees is that they are not effective or efficient. Meetings are time consuming and frequently only contribute to lip service about the issue and there is on-going discussion with no action, no solutions, and no resolution. These are often feel-good solutions but do not do anything to stop or protect workers from bully culture.

Decision-making follows the chain of command in most organizations. Consensus is needed for solutions, such as developing an anti-workplace aggression policy, are often required to move forward, but this makes the actual development of resolutions vulnerable to becoming stagnate. The larger the agency or organization, the more layers needed for approval and moving forward. As such, getting all the key players to support a solution can be problematic and damn near impossible. This is particularly true if the workplace bully is a leader or administrator.

If allegations of workplace bullying continue, lip service is given to ineffective and worthless interventions. This happens repeatedly in bully cultures. I recently talked with a former co-worker who was bragging about the resource list my former employer put together on workplace bullying. I think this is a good start for organizations. However, this was one of the conversations I was part of when I was working at the agency several years ago. So, the agency has made no progress in truly dealing with workplace violence, but rather just continued the dialogue about what resources might be beneficial. Even more importantly, this former co-worker felt as if the organization was making progress because workplace bullying was part of the strategic plan and meetings were being held to problem solve solutions.

This is frequently a technique that organizations use to keep workers satisfied that they are addressing the concern without really dealing with it. Organizations continue to have conversations about workplace violence, but there are never any real solutions developed. Thus, persistent workplace aggression continues and most likely, increases intensity. Unfortunately, this is the norm and not the exception.

If organizations want to truly manage workplace bullying effectively, they must have interventions that actually work. There is not a one size fit all, but rather each organization must build an action plan that addresses workplace bullying on all system levels that outline short- and long-term measurable goals which include accountability for perpetrators of workplace bullying. Administrator support and accountability are always required.