The Top 5 Reasons Organizations Have Bullying

I recently returned from speaking at the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) international conference (I had an audience of 1,000 – pretty cool). After I speak at conferences I always get a slew of emails from attendees, but this time around I noticed a very specific pattern: most of the email addresses ended in .edu or .gov.

Research has found that education, government and healthcare are the three industries where bullying seems to really thrive, but it was interesting to see this at play in my inbox.

So what do those three industries have in common?

More importantly, what do you have in common with those industries?

If your organization has one or more of the following, then you probably have bullying:

  1. Many employees who have worked there for a long time
  2. Many employees who are very smart (e.g., doctors, professors, engineers, etc)
  3. A bureaucratic culture (e.g., lots of rules, regulations, policies and top down leadership)
  4. Leaders who focus on the bottom line at the expense of customers and employees
  5. Organizational change (e.g., downsizing, changing work teams, restructuring, etc)

Of course, every organization in any industry has the possibility of bullying. But research has found that these five things are regularly predictors of bullying.

Also notice that this list is about the organization itself, and does not include people (i.e., bullies). People are not predictors of workplace bullying, the organization is. Bullying only happens when the organization allows it to.

Food for thought.