Is Bullying Rife in Tech?

Image credit: Kyle May via Flickr

Human Resource Management

Is Bullying Rife in Tech?

“It was quite insidious,” says Alex [false name]. “The odd comment here or there. And he’d work his way through the team. Then he started on me and I stood up to him… and it got really ugly. Really ugly - to the point where I went and got a lawyer.”

“I am a really strong person,” continues Alex. “Anyone that knows me is just shocked by what went on. But he undermined me so much, it was this whole campaign. It got to the point where you think: am I imagining this is happening? It was very manipulative and subtle: complete psychological and mental bullying. It was awful. And it wasn’t [just] a mental health issue. It was a physical thing. One day I literally started haemorrhaging blood…”

It is at this point that the naysayers will often step in. If it is female being described she would be casually dismissed as “emotional” and most likely “always running to HR”. If it is a male, this it would be the moment to give a kind of appalled snort: clearly he should “man up” and learn to deal with “tough management”.

Yet throughout our conversation, it is plain to see that Alex is extremely bright and analytical; not overtly weak or emotional.  This is a firm, likeable and very self-possessed person. And still, although this happened five years ago, Alex is only starting to get over the experience now.

22% of IT Professionals Have Taken Time Off For Stress

The latest research from the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), released in Feb 2014 [PDF] shows 27% of adult Americans have directly experienced “repeated abusive conduct that is threatening, intimidating, humiliating, work sabotage or work abuse.” And Dr. Namie, Director of WBI and widely regarded as North America’s foremost authority on workplace bullying, stresses this figure would have been far higher, if he had been less stringent with the definition.

Bullying is extremely hard to define. It can cover a raft of abusive behaviour, from obvious horribleness, such as shouting, hectoring and physical maltreatment. Right through to a devious spectrum of Machiavellian, psychological techniques, designed to break the victim from the inside. This can include too much work, too little work, ill-defined expectations, constantly changing the goal posts, along with the usual schoolyard fare of whispering in corners and making people feel worthless.

There is no overt legislation against it, and not only is it difficult to prove, it often takes the recipient a long time to realise it is really happening.  “I was paranoid. I had depression,” explains Alex. It had a terrible effect on me. To the point where it made me question my sanity.”

There is some evidence to suggest that whilst this problem exists everywhere, things might be worse in tech. In 2008 Computer Weekly produced an article which stated that the “IT profession is blighted by bullying”. Based on research from the UK Trade Union, Ignite, this showed that out of 860 IT professionals surveyed “65% believed they had been bullied at work, and 22% had taken time off work because of stress caused by bullying.”

Sam [false name], a senior IT professional I consulted, agreed with a lot of the findings but demurred: “To me it is not bullying, but sheer incompetence, and cronyism. Lack of openness and accountability at the top, micro-management and over-scrutiny, a lack of appropriate training and HR being useless. I have seen it, wondered how bad it can be - then experienced worse.”

Steve Jobs, the Tech Industry & IT Professionals

It is extremely difficult to pinpoint issues within IT as a whole because the community is non-cohesive. There are those who work in tech companies - in a range of capacities - and those who work in IT, in a wide range of industries. Yet many people agree that, like teaching and nursing, the tech industry itself, is particularly riddled with bullying.

Steve Jobs is the poster boy of both tech entrepreneurialism and bully-boy tactics. Dr. Namie believes his example is fairly common. “The narcissism of the tech entrepreneurs is excessive. The type of personality who starts these kinds of companies are very tough to deal with. They’re quite full of themselves and they’re not about democracy or inclusion. So, they’re natural bullies. But the media will never call them bullies because they’re seen as geniuses and they’re the inventors of our era.”

As late as this April, Jobs’ bullying made the news (again), as tech workers appealing to the legal system about Google, Adobe, Intel and Apple’s alleged conspiracy to keep workers’ wages low were asked to refrain “from unfairly portraying Jobs as a “bully” at the trial.” Cult of Mac reported “the companies said they don’t want the court to ban all of the Jobs evidence, just stuff gleaned from sources like Walter Isaacson’s biography that paints Jobs in a bad light.”

“A tech firm is like a dysfunctional alcoholic family where the parent is the drunk,” says Dr. Namie. “The poor family. Nobody else drinks but they all have to walk on eggshells. People check their dignity at the door in those kinds of companies. They live a deferred life because the sun is burning so brightly at the top of the company and everyone else is supposed to be a bunch of nothings. It is sickening. Our biggest task at WBI is trying to get people to understand they deserve more.”

He feels fundamentally, this stems from two factors: “[The first is] there is no boundary between home and work. The second is work pace.”

“Those two [factors] combined, make that industry so bullying prone, it is pure chaos. And people who get into it initially get a buzz form it, but they are human wrapped in the technology experiment [and] they underestimate the fact that biologically our stress response is way behind our technological need to innovate.”

Alex however, isn’t sure if bullying is worse in the tech industry than in others: “I’ve only ever worked in tech and so, I don’t know, I wouldn’t be able to comment. [What I do know though is] I wanted to have a career. And the industry is small. You don’t want to be seen as a trouble maker. You think: people will badmouth me.”

Sam, who holds a senior position in a large, traditional IT company, describes personal experiences as: “a classic tale of incompetence, [the] old boys club looking out for each other [and] HR being utterly useless. [These people] get promoted because they are safe and can be trusted, not because they are competent.”

“Not sure it is specific to IT-industry though? I believe this happens everywhere. There is a ‘leadership deficit’ in the world, in companies, in politics, everywhere.”

A Leadership or HR Issue?

“All of the business articles think that bullying is an HR issue,” says Dr. Namie. “It is not, it is a leadership problem because they establish the culture. HR does not establish the culture. So it should not be handled by HR, it should be handled at a leadership level. HR is the worst place to go. They are terrible in the States. ‘Feckless’ is the word I would use.”

Pam Farmer, an independent HR Professional, who runs consultancy firm Change Map and has 10 years’ experience of workplace bullying, agrees with this, to a certain extent: “It is critically important for the HR managers in the organisation to be fully confident that the bullying/workplace behaviour/conduct policy can be implemented and that they can run an investigation which is fair and free from interference.”

“Many HR people, 'HR Business Partners', can be too close to the business and do not stand sufficiently apart from line managers,” she continues. “They either see the complainant as a problem to be managed away or are themselves afraid of being victimised.  The HR community in general needs to recapture an independent position in this particular area.”

Both Dr. Namie and Pam Farmer stress that the organisational culture establishes a bullying environment. Farmer says “negative workplace behaviour can happen anywhere, in any profession and at any level. Yet she lists a series of factors that make this worse: poor standard setting; a high degree of change or pressure; a poorly understood or implemented performance system; poorly selected managers; and of course, limited opportunities to find other jobs.

Dr. Namie has run his organisation for 17 years and feels that companies should “care more” about the problem. However, they “either like the bully, they are afraid of the bully or they are the sponsor of the bully. In one way shape or form they are letting this go on and on.”

This tallies with Alex’s experience. The bully was a person in a senior position; he was head of the UK office, who remained unmanaged and unchecked by the business. This led to a top-down culture, where bullying was condoned throughout the rungs of his team.

The Bully vs. The Bullied: A Different World View

 

In extremely simplistic terms Dr. Namie believes these problems in the workplace stem from ideological differences. The people who are focused doing a good job are a very different breed to the people who are preoccupied with the career ladder. In black and white terms this is the political people vs. the non-political people: “the ones who care about the work and the ones who care about personal agenda.”

“That is the major distinction,” he explains. “The bullies are driven by their agenda. They fill their days with political dealings [usually] to the detriment of the company. So it is never about work getting done. It is never about being a tough boss, it is about getting it done for me.”

The people that tend to be targeted fit a profile too he says: “[They tend to be] a strong worker, a veteran worker and a technically skilled worker.”

“The target of bullying is a highly studied area,” agrees Farmer. “It may be that the bullied target is very good at their job, is anxious about their job, or speaks their mind, or is an independent thinker [there are] a whole variety of reasons.  Self-confident people who are viewed as 'strong' by others, can be targets for bullying.”

The best book written on the subject, “Bully in Sight”, is by Tim Field: a man who suffered a mental breakdown after being bullied in the IT workplace and died tragically young. In this he explains: there are “many reasons” why a person is selected for bullying but the two that “stand out head and shoulders above the rest are: being good at your job, often excelling; [and] being popular with people.”

This can, of course, manifest itself in a few different ways. Employees can bully managers. Peers can pick on peers. Yet in the words of Field: “Most cases of bullying occur when a manager uses the opportunity of position to bully a subordinate.”

“To try and convince someone that is thoroughly competent that they’re incompetent is a very cruel act,” says Dr. Namie. “A lot of time is spent doing that: they have the audacity to crawl inside someone’s head and tell them who they are, rather than letting people be who they are.”

”Bullies don’t come to us for study. But we meet them when we do consulting and – [if you] remember the narcissism, you won’t go wrong.” Delroy Paulus of Colombia University has identified the dark triad [pdf] of personality traits that normally show destructive people,  explains Dr. Namie, although sadism has subsequently been added.  

These people are (on a sliding scale) narcissistic, psychopath-like, (in that that they tend to lack remorse) and Machiavellian. “Look at that package - these are the people who are willing to meddle with others,” he continues. “They fill their days with political gamesmanship. And the other people, the targets, come to work to do their job.”

“[For the bullies] climbing the ladder is all of their work. It is their focus. It becomes a zero-sum game where they must obliterate all competition. They see co-workers as competition as opposed to peers, or a possible pool of friends. They see them as someone to dupe, overcome and climb over. And it is just Machiavellian. And some people don’t have that view at all. They’re co-corporative. They’re nice. They’re kind. The targets are in that group.”

“[For the bullied] the trauma comes from a destruction of their world view. [They believe]: If I work hard I’ll be recognised and I’ll be paid adequately and I can stay and do what I love, but they are cruising for bruising. If they fall into a workplace where they are arbitrarily assigned to one of these cruel people life for them is just horrible.”

The Bullied are Widely Ostracised at Work

The picture that emerges of the workplace is pretty bleak. “There are studies which show that the kind or altruistic worker is the one the group expels first. Because they can’t stand the fact that they set such a high moral standard. We’re afraid of the real people,” says Dr. Namie. “We’re scared to make friends with people [in the workplace].”

It is certainly true that ostracism is a big part of the experience of being bullied. “People outside the bullying situation and in the immediate environment (colleagues) are often fully aware of the bullying going on but 'do not believe it is my business' to intervene or raise the issue to anyone who could intervene,” says Farmer.

“The reasons are complex and research is being carried out into why bystanders remain on the side lines. My experience indicates that bystanders are willing to raise their concerns only if the organisation has clearly come out against bullying and that the bystander feels that they will not also be victimised or bullied,” she continues.

“I lost all my friends there,” says Alex. “People close ranks the moment they get frightened. And you become an outsider. People stopped talking to me which was terrible.” Everyone knows that social ostracism hurts, yet as Dr. Namie explains: “From functional MRI studies [pdf] we know it is genuine pain.”

What Can We Do About It?

The lack of clear definition, and deficit in legislation, makes workplace bullying extremely difficult pinpoint, let alone tackle. On top of which, people often turn inwards, blame themselves, or refuse to accept anything is happening at all.

“People need to know that they don’t need to take it,” says Dr. Namie but the terrible truth is “if they’re the sole wage earner they can’t move lightly.”

This is a serious problem that we all need to be aware about. It runs rampant through many organisations, poisoning whole teams from the inside. Whilst for the victim, bullying causes massive physical and psychological distress, leading individuals to doubt their entire work identity. This, in turn, fundamentally impacts their life and career; many feel they will never get another job again.

“Some people don’t come through it,” says Alex. “It is scary. I say to my children: you have to respect people. I’m a manager and you have to respect people and see them as a person. He didn’t care. He was awful. And I was a gibbering wreck.”

 

 

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Comments

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Jhonnie Walker on May 22 2014

The problem of children bullying each other is not new. Most of us have encountered a bully at some point in our lives. Usually parents worry about their child becoming the victim to a bully in school. It is often quite a surprise for parents to find out that their child is the one doing the bullying. As upsetting as it is to discover this behavior, you must stay calm. To successfully help your child, you must go about resolving the problem the appropriate way.Luckily, after reading articles online, I found a perfect solution that has been working perfectly for your children and the rest of the family. Check this link: http://safekidzone.com/?a_aid=52f12fafd5de8

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DB on May 24 2014

Yes, it exists, and clearly it is not rare, unfortunately. I experienced the same issues, and I am not meek or weak by any means. It is virtually inexplicable, and generally focused around power politics and elitism (class warfare?) at the executive levels. But there has to be some deeper, darker side to it. Even Ed Yourdon in his book alludes to it as a primary interview question for CIOs. I believe it is both an executive and HR issue. The executive level must see/sense it, acknowledge it, and have the good sense to do something about it and stop it in it's tracks--human relations and job satisfaction at all levels shouldn't take the back seat to appeasing a bully in an "important" position. If the executives allow the culture, then it is systemic abuse and HR should be the resolution--however, that will have a negative effect in the victim and whistleblower. That is why the true fix is at the C-suite (almost exclusively) and/or VP level. And the C level must make it clear there is ZERO Tolerance for overt bullying.

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carlos on May 24 2014

Jhonnie, Did you read this article? Its about bully tactics at work and victims. There is a great book "The No Asshole Rule" by Robert Sutton. Everywhere you go there are A**holes at work and in life, people without a filter who hurt and crush people in life. There are also mean spirited coworkers and supervisors who enjoy seeing pain and suffering in others. This power trip only can be squashed by not hiring or promoting people known with bad social behaviors, otherwise it is best to move on to a better lower paying position. Maybe take a motivational course and bark back at the barkers. At some point everyone must stand up show some character.

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Patricia Shannon on May 24 2014

A result of the targeting of competent people is that they are driven out, or at least not allowed to be as productive as they could be, leading to inferior products. From my experience in the work place, I have concluded that the only reason most companies are able to stay in business is that their competitors are equally incompetent.

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Laurens L Battis III on May 24 2014

This is an organized program throughout IT and other high-tech industries. It is an off-shoot of organized programs in elementary schools throughout the Nation. It is organized through universities and corportions in the United States. This is easily provable. In this case it is aimed at transforming American IT. I was CIO/CTO/CSO of a midsize corporation when this happened to me in 2007-2008. When I investigated what the root causes of this phenomenon were, it took me down the Rabbit-Hole and has provided me with a new career. Publishing! There is a corporate overthrow called the New World Order being effected. It has been proceeding rapidly in the United States since WWII. Eisenhower warned of it, calling it the Military-Industrial Complex. This is what bullied Alex. This is what is changing America for the worse. Alex, you are not alone.

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vnmaster on May 25 2014

My wife worked for a DOW 30 company. She is very meticulous and worked diligently. She complained about another manager giving her tons of work. Instead of attending to her request her manager puts her on probation. Then as the years go by she gets another manager who has no IT background, becomes her IT manager. the manager is verbally abusive. My wife takes it in stride. Keeps getting more and more abused. She is laid of. My wife gets admitted to the hospital and six years later she is still suffering from depression and unable to ever go back to work. I wish I knew what to do. I did not. Workplace bullying is very rampant in IT industry and there should be a law to put it in check

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Kathryn Caveon May 27 2014 | 09:42

Thanks for your comment vnmaster - that sounds like a horrible story. The lack of legislation was a recurring theme with the people I spoke to in creating this article. I'm not sure if your wife has been in touch with the Workplace Bullying Institute, but this organisation might be able to provide some guidance?

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Anthony E. Scandora, Jr. on May 25 2014

Tech might be worse than other industries, but bullying is prevalent across our society. I once worked for a severely abusive business owner and learned to ignore him while earning paychecks until I found a decent employer. I once saw a new employee start at 8:30 and leave crying before 10:00 on her first day. I have seen countless worthless and counterproductive employees, major drains on corporate resources, manage to get away with bullying useful employees while conning their clueless bosses into supporting their malice. I know college students who write papers that agree with their teachers’ extreme political positions, even though the "facts" in the papers are lies and the students do not buy their teachers’ views. Supporting their own views, no matter how well, or presenting verifiable facts would earn lousy if passing grades, so the students know what to do. I know young students who can beat up the little kids on the playgrounds out of sight of the lunch moms and then go into the classrooms like Eddie Haskell and Mrs. Cleaver. Then they grow up to bully graduation speakers. Two years ago many ganged up on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover girl for being fat. Say what? Some principals and teachers will listen to victims and set up to catch bullies red handed. Some teachers require debate on both sides of controversial issues. Some even require their students sometimes to debate positions they disagree with. Some businesses have developed a culture of mutual respect for all who share the goal of making their endeavor successful. I have seen significantly increased bullying across most of our society over the years. Remediation will come from parents who demand it from schools, students who demand it from colleges, business leaders who realize good culture is good business, and individuals who seek healthy environments. Charm school at the least would be in order for some of both right- and left-wing media personalities, and muzzles for the rest. None of that will be easy, but letting bullying get farther out of control would be worse.

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Steven Shepard on May 25 2014

I do IT field service. Where I see attempts at bullying and brow beating are from telephone technical support crews who attempt to tell me how to conduct and execute my service calls. As far as I am concerned when I am on site I am the pilot on this assignment and I don't take any crap from someone on the other end of a telephone line. The foreign tech supporters are the most worse. I make a point of putting them in line quickly and the service call proceeds at my command.

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Kim Berra on May 26 2014

Good and insightful text - but I am concerned about this sentence: "Yet throughout our conversation, it is plain to see that Alex is extremely bright and analytical; not overtly weak or emotional." I mean, what if the were? Being weak and emotional is not bad, not ugly and not non-trustworthy. Neither women nor men have to be analytic, clear and especially self-possesing to become a vicim of bullying and to suffer of it. I think we should get a critical view on the bullier, not on the victims, like your articel does it most of the time. Also here come gender aspects into play, which are unfortunately overlooked here.

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Kathryn Caveon May 27 2014 | 09:37

Hi Kim - thanks for your comment. I just wanted to show Alex within the context of the counter argument. I agree it wouldn't matter if this victim were weak or emotional, but this is what they 'naysayers' always level against these individuals and I wanted to show, on this particular occasion, it was not the case. I also deliberately left the gender element out - IT is already riddled with gender issues and I didn't want to cloud the bullying story here.

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Bob Roberts on May 27 2014

At a certain large company who's bosses are Bill and Steve, they actually give employees a week long course on how to talk to them so they won't quit after they are abused.

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Fiddlesticks on May 27 2014

What makes this issue unique, and in some ways worse, for IT, is that in America, IT managers are often brought in from other departments. The managers didn't work their way up by being technically proficient. They have no sweat equity in the systems built by their employees and are insecure about their lack of practical knowledge, despite their executive sponsors reassuring them that their "knowledge of the real business" is all that matters.

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unknown on May 28 2014

It is not bullying, it is lack of knowledge. People should go to work and find solutions to issues boosting their prosperity and employer worth or interest. There is no reason adults should face such immaturity.

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TRCIII on May 29 2014

Much like the overblown issue of gun deaths in America, bullying is not any more rampant in the school or workplace, or more endemic to any particular industry than any other…it’s just getting better publicity and national exposure to feed the media mills. And the reason it “sells” media ratings, is largely because of the current generation of children entering the workplaces and schoolplaces who are still windburned from the prop wash of their helicopter moms hovering over them since birth. Those mommies need to feel justified for the protective, hand-sanitized bubble they kept around their hothouse plants, and are starving for validation that the world is a terrifying, evil place and that they were right to guard their children as long as possible. And even now that they’re grown, just LOOK at how horrible it is out there! Come home to mommy, angel, and she’ll make it all better! In several decades of having worked in a variety of states, jobs and industries, I have never been bullied once, have never seen bullying in the workplace, don’t know anyone personally who has suffered or seen such an event, and yet, it’s a “problem” of such magnitude that it’s worthy of national attention, a media frenzy and congressional legislation. Does bigotry and discrimination exist? Certainly. I’ve seen it. Sexual harassment? Undoubtedly. I know people it’s happened to. But has bullying suddenly become an epidemic of tsunami proportions, justifying the millions we’re going to be forced to spend to elevate people’s “awareness” and counter this horrifying “new” development? I don’t think so.

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Jimmacon May 30 2014 | 13:07

Spoken like a true BULLY. You are the type of person who charges ahead in life abusing and bullying others and are totally shocked when someone rearranges your face after being pushed to the limit. Then you go crying to the authorites to fix it. My advise, stay out of serious organizations who do what has to be done. Those type of people will not suffer fools like you kindly.

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TRCIIIon Sep 22 2014 | 18:20

@Jimmac: Bahahaha! Wow, are you off-base! I've never been in a fight in my life, and am well-known in my office as the voice of reason in any dispute; I'm as laid-back, peaceful and non-confrontational as they come. I believe the temperament may stem from my days as a medic and EMT back in my Air Force days--a non-combatant and caregiver--but it might have been my even temperament that put me in the caregiving field in the first place. Regardless of how it happened, I am generally recognized as a calm, unassuming individual who treats everyone with equal dignity and respect...until it's obvious they don't deserve it. Even then, my response is usually just to ignore them, walk away and leave them to founder in their own self-made problems. I work my way around people who are obstacles—not through or over them. I've not only never bullied, I've never been bullied and as I said, I haven’t actually seen bullying since I left my playground days behind in the 60s and 70s...and I wasn't the bully or victim, even then. Frankly, I just think a lot of young folks have no idea what bullying actually is. Confrontation is not bullying. Argument and even heated discussion are not bullying. Good natured kidding is not bullying. Frankly, I'm fairly certain this whole issue was concocted by a group of people who were raised without normal human interaction and who are affronted by occasionally being spoken to harshly (especially when they screw up) because nobody ever did it to them before. As for my contributions to “serious organizations”…after leaving the Air Force and going back to school in the early 80s, I mostly worked in IT, and accomplished many not-so-foolish things and received regular kudos and the approbation of my peers my entire career, mostly in IT jobs in the health care industry. During these decades of interaction—without ever even coming close to having my face rearranged—I've encountered a variety of bad behaviors...but never bullying. My conclusion, based on that wide-ranging and decades-long career of never having met anyone who has seen or heard of this “huge issue” is…this is not a problem of the magnitude that the media is making it out to be. After all, it’s their job to create FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) to boost ratings and sell advertising space, and this is just their latest cause célèbre to sensationalize. Like shark attacks. On the other hand, you definitely sound like you've been brutalized a lot, to the point where your first response to someone who disagrees with you is rampant paranoia and aggressive name-calling, veiled threats of violence and seeing bullies where there are none, so maybe there are isolated instances where this “bullying” truly has occurred. My condolences if you have been a victim; perhaps you should see someone about your PTSD issues. Or maybe it’s just time to give mom a call? And if you think that last remark is "bullying" you...you DEFINITELY have no idea what it actually means. :)

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Jhonnie Walker on May 22 2014

The problem of children bullying each other is not new. Most of us have encountered a bully at some point in our lives. Usually parents worry about their child becoming the victim to a bully in school. It is often quite a surprise for parents to find out that their child is the one doing the bullying. As upsetting as it is to discover this behavior, you must stay calm. To successfully help your child, you must go about resolving the problem the appropriate way.Luckily, after reading articles online, I found a perfect solution that has been working perfectly for your children and the rest of the family. Check this link: http://safekidzone.com/?a_aid=52f12fafd5de8

no-images

DB on May 24 2014

Yes, it exists, and clearly it is not rare, unfortunately. I experienced the same issues, and I am not meek or weak by any means. It is virtually inexplicable, and generally focused around power politics and elitism (class warfare?) at the executive levels. But there has to be some deeper, darker side to it. Even Ed Yourdon in his book alludes to it as a primary interview question for CIOs. I believe it is both an executive and HR issue. The executive level must see/sense it, acknowledge it, and have the good sense to do something about it and stop it in it's tracks--human relations and job satisfaction at all levels shouldn't take the back seat to appeasing a bully in an "important" position. If the executives allow the culture, then it is systemic abuse and HR should be the resolution--however, that will have a negative effect in the victim and whistleblower. That is why the true fix is at the C-suite (almost exclusively) and/or VP level. And the C level must make it clear there is ZERO Tolerance for overt bullying.

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carlos on May 24 2014

Jhonnie, Did you read this article? Its about bully tactics at work and victims. There is a great book "The No Asshole Rule" by Robert Sutton. Everywhere you go there are A**holes at work and in life, people without a filter who hurt and crush people in life. There are also mean spirited coworkers and supervisors who enjoy seeing pain and suffering in others. This power trip only can be squashed by not hiring or promoting people known with bad social behaviors, otherwise it is best to move on to a better lower paying position. Maybe take a motivational course and bark back at the barkers. At some point everyone must stand up show some character.

no-images

Patricia Shannon on May 24 2014

A result of the targeting of competent people is that they are driven out, or at least not allowed to be as productive as they could be, leading to inferior products. From my experience in the work place, I have concluded that the only reason most companies are able to stay in business is that their competitors are equally incompetent.

no-images

Laurens L Battis III on May 24 2014

This is an organized program throughout IT and other high-tech industries. It is an off-shoot of organized programs in elementary schools throughout the Nation. It is organized through universities and corportions in the United States. This is easily provable. In this case it is aimed at transforming American IT. I was CIO/CTO/CSO of a midsize corporation when this happened to me in 2007-2008. When I investigated what the root causes of this phenomenon were, it took me down the Rabbit-Hole and has provided me with a new career. Publishing! There is a corporate overthrow called the New World Order being effected. It has been proceeding rapidly in the United States since WWII. Eisenhower warned of it, calling it the Military-Industrial Complex. This is what bullied Alex. This is what is changing America for the worse. Alex, you are not alone.

no-images

vnmaster on May 25 2014

My wife worked for a DOW 30 company. She is very meticulous and worked diligently. She complained about another manager giving her tons of work. Instead of attending to her request her manager puts her on probation. Then as the years go by she gets another manager who has no IT background, becomes her IT manager. the manager is verbally abusive. My wife takes it in stride. Keeps getting more and more abused. She is laid of. My wife gets admitted to the hospital and six years later she is still suffering from depression and unable to ever go back to work. I wish I knew what to do. I did not. Workplace bullying is very rampant in IT industry and there should be a law to put it in check

no-images

Kathryn Caveon May 27 2014 | 09:42

Thanks for your comment vnmaster - that sounds like a horrible story. The lack of legislation was a recurring theme with the people I spoke to in creating this article. I'm not sure if your wife has been in touch with the Workplace Bullying Institute, but this organisation might be able to provide some guidance?

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Anthony E. Scandora, Jr. on May 25 2014

Tech might be worse than other industries, but bullying is prevalent across our society. I once worked for a severely abusive business owner and learned to ignore him while earning paychecks until I found a decent employer. I once saw a new employee start at 8:30 and leave crying before 10:00 on her first day. I have seen countless worthless and counterproductive employees, major drains on corporate resources, manage to get away with bullying useful employees while conning their clueless bosses into supporting their malice. I know college students who write papers that agree with their teachers’ extreme political positions, even though the "facts" in the papers are lies and the students do not buy their teachers’ views. Supporting their own views, no matter how well, or presenting verifiable facts would earn lousy if passing grades, so the students know what to do. I know young students who can beat up the little kids on the playgrounds out of sight of the lunch moms and then go into the classrooms like Eddie Haskell and Mrs. Cleaver. Then they grow up to bully graduation speakers. Two years ago many ganged up on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover girl for being fat. Say what? Some principals and teachers will listen to victims and set up to catch bullies red handed. Some teachers require debate on both sides of controversial issues. Some even require their students sometimes to debate positions they disagree with. Some businesses have developed a culture of mutual respect for all who share the goal of making their endeavor successful. I have seen significantly increased bullying across most of our society over the years. Remediation will come from parents who demand it from schools, students who demand it from colleges, business leaders who realize good culture is good business, and individuals who seek healthy environments. Charm school at the least would be in order for some of both right- and left-wing media personalities, and muzzles for the rest. None of that will be easy, but letting bullying get farther out of control would be worse.

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Steven Shepard on May 25 2014

I do IT field service. Where I see attempts at bullying and brow beating are from telephone technical support crews who attempt to tell me how to conduct and execute my service calls. As far as I am concerned when I am on site I am the pilot on this assignment and I don't take any crap from someone on the other end of a telephone line. The foreign tech supporters are the most worse. I make a point of putting them in line quickly and the service call proceeds at my command.

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Kim Berra on May 26 2014

Good and insightful text - but I am concerned about this sentence: "Yet throughout our conversation, it is plain to see that Alex is extremely bright and analytical; not overtly weak or emotional." I mean, what if the were? Being weak and emotional is not bad, not ugly and not non-trustworthy. Neither women nor men have to be analytic, clear and especially self-possesing to become a vicim of bullying and to suffer of it. I think we should get a critical view on the bullier, not on the victims, like your articel does it most of the time. Also here come gender aspects into play, which are unfortunately overlooked here.

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Kathryn Caveon May 27 2014 | 09:37

Hi Kim - thanks for your comment. I just wanted to show Alex within the context of the counter argument. I agree it wouldn't matter if this victim were weak or emotional, but this is what they 'naysayers' always level against these individuals and I wanted to show, on this particular occasion, it was not the case. I also deliberately left the gender element out - IT is already riddled with gender issues and I didn't want to cloud the bullying story here.

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Bob Roberts on May 27 2014

At a certain large company who's bosses are Bill and Steve, they actually give employees a week long course on how to talk to them so they won't quit after they are abused.

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Fiddlesticks on May 27 2014

What makes this issue unique, and in some ways worse, for IT, is that in America, IT managers are often brought in from other departments. The managers didn't work their way up by being technically proficient. They have no sweat equity in the systems built by their employees and are insecure about their lack of practical knowledge, despite their executive sponsors reassuring them that their "knowledge of the real business" is all that matters.

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unknown on May 28 2014

It is not bullying, it is lack of knowledge. People should go to work and find solutions to issues boosting their prosperity and employer worth or interest. There is no reason adults should face such immaturity.

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TRCIII on May 29 2014

Much like the overblown issue of gun deaths in America, bullying is not any more rampant in the school or workplace, or more endemic to any particular industry than any other…it’s just getting better publicity and national exposure to feed the media mills. And the reason it “sells” media ratings, is largely because of the current generation of children entering the workplaces and schoolplaces who are still windburned from the prop wash of their helicopter moms hovering over them since birth. Those mommies need to feel justified for the protective, hand-sanitized bubble they kept around their hothouse plants, and are starving for validation that the world is a terrifying, evil place and that they were right to guard their children as long as possible. And even now that they’re grown, just LOOK at how horrible it is out there! Come home to mommy, angel, and she’ll make it all better! In several decades of having worked in a variety of states, jobs and industries, I have never been bullied once, have never seen bullying in the workplace, don’t know anyone personally who has suffered or seen such an event, and yet, it’s a “problem” of such magnitude that it’s worthy of national attention, a media frenzy and congressional legislation. Does bigotry and discrimination exist? Certainly. I’ve seen it. Sexual harassment? Undoubtedly. I know people it’s happened to. But has bullying suddenly become an epidemic of tsunami proportions, justifying the millions we’re going to be forced to spend to elevate people’s “awareness” and counter this horrifying “new” development? I don’t think so.

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Jimmacon May 30 2014 | 13:07

Spoken like a true BULLY. You are the type of person who charges ahead in life abusing and bullying others and are totally shocked when someone rearranges your face after being pushed to the limit. Then you go crying to the authorites to fix it. My advise, stay out of serious organizations who do what has to be done. Those type of people will not suffer fools like you kindly.

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TRCIIIon Sep 22 2014 | 18:20

@Jimmac: Bahahaha! Wow, are you off-base! I've never been in a fight in my life, and am well-known in my office as the voice of reason in any dispute; I'm as laid-back, peaceful and non-confrontational as they come. I believe the temperament may stem from my days as a medic and EMT back in my Air Force days--a non-combatant and caregiver--but it might have been my even temperament that put me in the caregiving field in the first place. Regardless of how it happened, I am generally recognized as a calm, unassuming individual who treats everyone with equal dignity and respect...until it's obvious they don't deserve it. Even then, my response is usually just to ignore them, walk away and leave them to founder in their own self-made problems. I work my way around people who are obstacles—not through or over them. I've not only never bullied, I've never been bullied and as I said, I haven’t actually seen bullying since I left my playground days behind in the 60s and 70s...and I wasn't the bully or victim, even then. Frankly, I just think a lot of young folks have no idea what bullying actually is. Confrontation is not bullying. Argument and even heated discussion are not bullying. Good natured kidding is not bullying. Frankly, I'm fairly certain this whole issue was concocted by a group of people who were raised without normal human interaction and who are affronted by occasionally being spoken to harshly (especially when they screw up) because nobody ever did it to them before. As for my contributions to “serious organizations”…after leaving the Air Force and going back to school in the early 80s, I mostly worked in IT, and accomplished many not-so-foolish things and received regular kudos and the approbation of my peers my entire career, mostly in IT jobs in the health care industry. During these decades of interaction—without ever even coming close to having my face rearranged—I've encountered a variety of bad behaviors...but never bullying. My conclusion, based on that wide-ranging and decades-long career of never having met anyone who has seen or heard of this “huge issue” is…this is not a problem of the magnitude that the media is making it out to be. After all, it’s their job to create FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) to boost ratings and sell advertising space, and this is just their latest cause célèbre to sensationalize. Like shark attacks. On the other hand, you definitely sound like you've been brutalized a lot, to the point where your first response to someone who disagrees with you is rampant paranoia and aggressive name-calling, veiled threats of violence and seeing bullies where there are none, so maybe there are isolated instances where this “bullying” truly has occurred. My condolences if you have been a victim; perhaps you should see someone about your PTSD issues. Or maybe it’s just time to give mom a call? And if you think that last remark is "bullying" you...you DEFINITELY have no idea what it actually means. :)

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