Do you want to make $40 in 10 seconds?

Yesterday I attended a conference, and one of the speakers talked about taking action. To make a point, he held up a $5 bill and said he was selling it for $1. Four people got up to make the deal, and one made $4.

He then held up a $50 bill and said it was for sale for $10. Only six people got up to make the deal, and one lucky Joe made $40 in an instant.

Let’s look at the psychology of taking action. With his first “sale” the speaker made it clear this wasn’t a gimmick. Why then, when he offered the audience $40 for getting out of their chair and walking to the stage, did only six people go?

I got to thinking about WHY people don’t take action, and how this applies to our work environment – specifically, taking action against workplace bullying.

Here are three reasons people don’t take action:

1. Fear. In the case of workplace bullying, taking action means standing up to the bully. It possibly means standing up to managers who aren’t willing to acknowledge it’s a problem. What happens if people don’t listen? Will the bully retaliate? What problems will taking action create for me? These questions are answered in the context of fear, so the answers lead people to avoid taking action.

2. Spotlight. Many people don’t want to be in the spotlight. At the conference, even $40 wasn’t enough to convince people to be in it for 10 seconds. Why would someone volunteer to be in the spotlight if it meant they will be punished by the bully? Or worse, by the organization?

3. Apathy. Some people just don’t care enough to take action. Maybe the bullying doesn’t bother them personally. Or maybe they think it’s normal to be treated that way, so they don’t feel compelled to take action against normalcy.

Maybe one of these reasons is why you haven’t taken action, or maybe it’s something else. But one thing is for sure, if you’re not taking action it’s because you haven’t made the decision to take action.

If you want something to be different, you have to take action to get it. Want to lose weight? You have to exercise. Want to go on that dream trip? You have to put money in a savings account. Want to stop bullying? You have to dosomething about it.

That something is up to you. If you’re witnessing bullying at work, maybe it’s stepping in when you see bullying happening. If you’re a target of bullying, maybe it’s filing a complaint with HR. If you’re in HR, maybe it’s taking a stand with a new corporate policy that you will enforce wholeheartedly. (I have a template policy to send you, by the way. Just reply to this email.)

Whatever it is, do it today. Right now.

Bullies only bully because we let them. They do it because they have implicit permission from the people around them. Stop giving them permission.

I’ve got all kinds of resources available to you if you need ideas on exactly what to do. I can send you anything you need, or we can set up a time to talk on the phone.