Can Bullies Be Tamed?


Readers agree that bullies run rampant in IT. "My work was sabotaged," writes an anonymous reader of bullying he experienced earlier in his career. "My superiors partnered with their corporate buddies to deliberately withhold pertinent information in order to thwart efforts and manipulate outcomes. I fought back, but because I am unskilled at subversive tactics and placed everything on the table and in public, I was actually blamed for being a bully myself. What I did during this time to mask my mental and emotional pain I am not proud of. Believe me, today's bully appears to be physically, professionally, visibly, and audibly politically correct."

Robert Sutton, author of The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't, understands. In a 2004 opinion piece he penned for CIO Insight (which served as the genesis for the book itself), he shared the experiences of a former government program manager who experienced abuse and bullying at the highest levels of government. The impact, the worker reported, was "devastating." "You are correct; there was no physical violence, no injuries visible to the eye, unless one looks deeper into the reasons for facial pallor, increased heart rate, the number of doctor visits or OTC medicinal purchases. Communication was reduced to cover-your-ass e-mails, long, detailed memos and meetings with participant witnesses. Creative avoidance prompted increased use of after-hour voice mails, underground agreements among those who did trust one another, and liberal use of sick days."

How have you managed to deal with bullies and jerks in your workplace? Share your experiences--and advice--with us below.


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