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When is it Business and When is it Bullying? [Snakes in Suits]

When is it Business and When is it Bullying? [Snakes in Suits]

When is it Business and When is it Bullying? [Snakes in Suits]

As America’s National Bullying Prevention Month comes to a close, I find myself wondering why a recent Forbes article reports that workplace bullying is on the rise. With all the knowledge we now have about the effects of bullying on people’s mental health, and all the resources at our disposal to effectively deal with it, how can this be? Perhaps, we have yet to clearly define one very important detail: when is it business and when is it bullying?

You might think bullying is something that only children have to worry about. And with all the media attention, you might even think it’s a behavior that has waned. But let’s look at the alarming statistics. An older 2008 poll on workplace bullying found that 75% of employees reported being affected as either a target or witness. And a new 2019 Monster.com survey out this month found that nearly 94% out of 2081 employees said they had been bullied in the workplace. That’s a huge increase (19%) in the last eleven years. (Forbes, Bryan Robinson, October 2019)

Robinson encourages people to speak up and act immediately. He even lists which actions to take to protect oneself and others. But what if a corporation’s success ideology inadvertently supports bullying behaviours? Then those actions will fall on deaf ears time and again, won’t they?

When is it Business and When is it Bullying? [Snakes in Suits]

When is it Business and When is it Bullying? [Snakes in Suits]

When is it Business and When is it Bullying? [Snakes in Suits]

Interviews with Dr. Robert (Bob) Hare and Dr. Paul Babiak, who co-authored Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work, provide some serious food for thought. These gentlemen estimate that from one to two percent of the general population is psychopathic in nature. Alarmingly, they find an even higher population of psychopathy within corporate environments:

“And what we find, surprisingly, was that there was a rate of 3.9% in that population of individuals that had scored high enough on the psychopathy checklist that they had hit the mark for being assessed as a psychopath.” (CBC Docs, Dr. Paul Babiak, September 2018)

What is this psychopathy checklist that Paul Babiak speaks of? It was created by his Canadian co-author, Bob Hare—a forensic psychologist touted as being “the godfather of psychopathy” by courts and law enforcement agencies the world over. Both Hare and Babiak consider psychopaths to be society’s most dangerous individuals. This is not only because they behave like predators at the top of the food chain. It is also because they are clever chameleons who can appear normal to the rest of us. With their severe emotional detachment to anything coupled with a lack of remorse, it is easy to see how these pathological liars can infect a workplace.

Did Bank Executives Use the Psychopathy Checklist to Recruit Employees?

Bullying is traumatic. When a trauma happens in your personal life, people rally around you to help you heal. Unfortunately, more often than not, when it happens in a corporate environment, you’re expected to just get over it and get on with it. You can clearly see this mentality in a 2018 CBC Go Public article about banking employees who complained to the media about chronic bullying in their workplaces. After completing an investigation of the bullying allegations, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) deputy commissioner, Brigitte Goulard, had this to say:

“The bank environment is a sales environment. … If you’re not a salesperson, perhaps working in a bank is not for you.” (CBC Go Public, Brigitte Goulard, April 2018)

According to Clive Boddy, a Professor of Leadership & Organizational Behaviour, this attitude is common within the financial sector. In fact, some bank executives took it a frightening step further a while back.

When is it Business and When is it Bullying? [Snakes in Suits]

When is it Business and When is it Bullying? [Snakes in Suits]

“Modern business is a perfect environment for [psychopaths] because it enables them to achieve the desires that they want in terms of money, in terms of controlling other people, in terms of gaining power and prestige, of course.” British professor and author, Clive Boddy, believes psychopathic behaviour was largely responsible for the global financial crisis. … Boddy says investment deals were so complex, even the brokers didn’t understand them. “You ask yourself: what kind of people would sell a product that they don’t understand and can’t properly price? You’d have to be without conscience—wouldn’t you?—to sell that kind of thing.”

…And Clive Boddy saw it all coming. A few years before the financial collapse, he began hearing that some bank executives went so far as to use Bob Hare’s psychopath checklist to recruit employees. “Presumably, that was because they thought those new employees would be cutthroat and ruthless towards their competitors. The danger, of course, is that they are cutthroat and ruthless towards the bank that employs them, as well. It’s like saying criminals are good at guarding Fort Knox, guarding the gold, guarding the crown jewels. The outcome would be inevitable. The gold would go missing. The jewels would be stolen. … If the system has been corrupted by the presence of corporate psychopaths, then the best thing to do is to get those people out of there rather than hope that the problem will go away on its own. Because it won’t.” (CBC Docs, Clive Boddy, September 2018)

Clearly, we all need to take a pause and rethink our society’s success ideology. When is it business and when is it bullying? And who exactly should be calling those shots in the workplace?

Workplace Bullying Can Affect the Bottom Line

For those who value money and power above all else—who are not swayed by the plight of others who are bullied in the workplace—I will appeal to your thinking from a different angle. When you place economy ahead of integrity, that economy will only sustain itself for so long. Employees and the public will begin to see through the deception. They’ll start complaining. First in small numbers. Then those numbers will grow larger and larger until a domino effect takes place that ultimately causes a recession … possibly even another stock market crash.

You need to care for the mental and physical health of your people first. Then they will take care of you.

Related reading:
On Failure and Faith

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