Like millions of displaced persons around the world, refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs), I am currently unemployed. So I took advantage of the opportunity it afforded to attend the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington, DC over a month ago.
Unfortunately, during many of the sessions I was dismayed to observe the same level of denial by officials in the IMF, and to a lesser extent the World Bank, as was omnipresent, before, and after, the financial meltdown of 2008. I am in déjà vu mode in relation to my observations in 2007, and the dangers the world faced in front of real estate bubbles ripe for explosion throughout the Americas and Europe. (As usual financial instruments used by con artist, financiers have changed, but the jargon and sales pitches for their "hanky-panky" --as Managing Director of the IMF Christine Lagarde calls it--has not changed). As well as déjà vu mode as to the rampant denial of those in political and financial power at the time--noting that many of the same people in power at that time, are many of the same people in power today.
While the rhetoric of Christine Lagarde and Jim Yong Kim at present is certainly progressive and calling for measures desperately needed in addressing the many issues facing economies and societies around the world. However, as is the case with the governments and the public authorities with whom the IMF and World Bank deal in their daily "business;" the knowledge, and therefore, the vision of these people is "patchwork"-- as they are openly admitting in meeting after meeting. And, it is filled with "gaps" all over the place. Unfortunately, those "gaps" of knowledge, is what is preventing everyone from understanding the "bigger picture," which includes examining rampant unethical behavior of those within their ranks. The absolute refusal of authorities to recognize, investigate and prosecute allegations of misconduct, and omission of actions by the "protected" members of society (bankers, lawyers, corporate executives, the list goes on...), is undermining the democratic process in countries around the world.
One of the fundamental reasons that progressive laws are not being implemented at international, national, and local levels are that the social conservative forces within these large bureaucratic agencies are the "guiding" force. The extent to which the HR function in large bureaucratic organizations are not implementing progressive management styles, which in turn encourage team work and participation, cannot be stressed enough. As I state in my Huffington Post blog, "Bullying in the Workplace and Its Consequences":
The Internet is full of advice on how to be successful in the workplace. How to develop one's social skills; what to say, what to do, what to wear, what not to say, what not to do, what not to wear. All of this advice focuses on what the employee needs to do to adapt to his or her workplace. What all of this rhetoric fails to recognize or acknowledge, is to what extent the environment of the workplace affects one's efforts, productivity, and career, as well as the productivity of the organization as a whole.
The 1970s and '80s were characterized by combatting sexual harassment in the workplace, with the popular TV show Mad Men bringing home to us the elevated sexism (and alcoholism) that permeated the business world of the '50s and '60s. But, now after a few decades of high-profile, million dollar lawsuits by high-priced lawyers, employers have been forced to take a hard-line against sexual harassment. However, as with all battles involving abuses of power, this issue has involved over the decades into a broader fight -- bullying being the problem du jour.
Unfortunately, identifying and dealing with bullying is much more difficult for employers (and lawyers looking for lawsuits) than the more overt forms of sexual and physical harassment of the past -- even though the objectives, power and control over the victim, are the same.
In order to effectively combat bullying, it is important to understand the dynamics of the situation rather than look for punctual, isolated incidents that may or may not constitute bullying. Bullies (and those with abusive personality disorders wherever they be found) are motivated by their desire to deflect attention away from their inability to handle situations, particularly stressful and crisis situations. They project their frustrations and inability to handle their jobs onto subordinates, while trying to convince superiors (as much as themselves) that the problems lay with the inadequacies or incompetence of others.
Large, bureaucratic organizations are particularly plagued with these problems, and exposed to their consequences. As Daniel Goleman states in Social Intelligence:
"In rigid hierarchies' bosses tend to be authoritarian: they more freely express contempt for their subordinates, who in turn naturally feel a messy mix of hostility, fear, and insecurity. Insults, which can be routine with such authoritarian managers, serve to reaffirm the boss's power while leaving their subordinates feeling helpless and vulnerable... In a relationship among peers, an affront can be challenged, an apology asked for. But when the insult comes from someone who holds all the power, subordinates (perhaps wisely) suppress their anger, responding with a resigned tolerance. But that very passivity with the insult going unchallenged-tacitly confers permission to a superior in that vein... As the demeaning messages continue over time, the person holding back feels increasingly powerless, anxious, and ultimately depressed -- all of which, if prolonged over long periods, markedly increases the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases."
In light of Goleman's observations, it is important for employers to realize that it is not only the victim who suffers. Bullying in the workplace has far-reaching consequences for the productivity and morale of employees throughout the entire organization. When bullying is supported and encouraged by upper-management by their failure to act, valuable employees are often lost or demoralized into just "punching the clock", with ineffective managers at liberty to continue performing at substandard levels, and creating havoc and inertia amongst co-workers and subordinates.
In the business environment of the 21st century, which is increasingly competitive and filled with employees seeking fulfilling and meaningful work, it behooves employers to properly confront the bullies and bullying amongst their ranks. A bully, without the support and encouragement of those around him or her, quickly loses their nerve and bravado, and the coward within is thereby exposed and vanquished.