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

Organizational culture is key to preventing bully culture

sign with arrow pointing one way that says good habits, the other way says bad habits

Organizational culture is key to preventing bully culture

Original Publication Date: April 3, 2016; Edited and Republished August 29, 2022

Every organization, no matter how big or small, has its own culture. The organizational culture is important for workers, leaders, and customers because it directly affects how we treat one another. Organizational culture is the shared beliefs, norms, and values that shape workplace behaviors. Organizational culture is essentially the personality and/or disposition of an organization. Every organizational culture is complex and multifaceted, but both directly and indirectly, influence bully culture.

There are several factors that can be addressed to ensure that the organizational culture is positive and supportive rather than one that encourages workplace aggression. One of these is maintaining a solid infrastructure which includes the physical and organizational structures necessary to run an organization. These are the structures that we rely on every day to do our jobs well. A problematic infrastructure impacts everyone from the boss to workers. It can cause immense frustration where workers strike out at one another. Organizations should ensure that the infrastructure works as flawlessly as possible. This does not mean that there cannot be issues within the infrastructure, but it does mean for the most part the infrastructure works as it is supposed to work.  A reliable infrastructure helps create an organizational culture that is dependable and consistent which are behaviors we want replicated by workers. 
Organizations also need to listen to workers especially when there are identified problems that are impacting one’s ability to their job effectively. Organizations should then solve these problems in a timely fashion if possible. 

For example, I had a conversation with a long-term worker whose job is to enroll trainees in courses three or four times a year. The worker identified several problems with these procedures including not having access to their trainee’s information during the enrollment period, not being able to enroll the trainees into the necessary courses, and not being trained themselves in the software updates from one year to another. In the conversation, I asked the worker how long this problem had been going on? I was shocked I was informed that these issues and more had been going on for several years and that there was no plan to make any significant changes to the process in the future. This person indicated that tensions between workers during these enrollment periods rose significantly because of the increased frustration and dissatisfaction with the organizational culture which was unresponsive to their needs. 

Organizations that utilize effective problem solving and are solution focused generate a culture of responsiveness, awareness, and sensitivity. All qualities that help to suppress workplace aggression and bully culture.

Another key factor in maintaining a positive organizational culture is being supportive and appreciative to all workers and administration.  Workers who feel valued and are shown that their work is important to the organization are more likely to reciprocate these types of behaviors to their co-workers. Recognition comes in all forms including both formal and informal processes. Organizational cultures should ideally encourage every worker to provide positive feedback to one another to maintain a culture of understanding and admiration. Organizational cultures that are devoid of recognition tend to create an environment of resentment and where workplace aggression can flourish. No one wants this.

Organizational culture is the foundation for the work we do, but also for how we do our work. As such, organizations need to spend time cultivating an organizational that meets the needs of workers so work can be done effectively and efficiently. But organizational culture also needs to be flexible to stop, prevent, and solve problems that arise, such as workplace bullying.