Executives have a responsibility to lead by example. 

Yes, there are the “common” leadership skills that will help a leader lead well.  For example, good decision-making skills, enhanced communication, and knowing how to collaborate and delegate.  With that said, there are other skills that are missing from this “common” list, and the absence of these skills can lead to incivility, bullying, and a hostile workplace.

What I have personally seen in the corporate sector, and in corporate America – in general, is a total lack of basic civility.  There is a lack of human kindness from senior leaders that is infectious, and it spills down to middle management, teams, and individuals.  I am talking about sarcasm, condescension, rudeness, cruel and hurtful words, intimidation, subtle threats, and behaviors that demean other people.  Do you work with anyone like this?  These behaviors can escalate into bullying and other forms of workplace violence.

Gaslighting is a horrendous form of bullying.  It is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.  Some of my clients in the highest corporate positions are having to deal with this in their organizations.

According to the 2014 Workplace Bullying Institute U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey, 27% of employees have been bullied, while 72% of employers deny or rationalize the “bully” behavior.

Making matters worse, the Institute says, “Women appear to be at greater risk of becoming a bullying target, as 57% of those who reported being targeted for abuse were women. Men are more likely to participate in aggressive bullying behavior (60%), however when the bully is a woman her target is more likely to be a woman as well (71%).”   This is Not okay.

This behavior creates a hostile work environment.  All employers should have solid policies in place that allow victims to report incidents and be protected against retaliation.

Executives owe it to their organization to Step Up To The Plate and lead in a way that is based on a high level of integrity, solid values, and the utmost civility. 

You, as a leader, can exert your influence to make positive changes. 

Here are four steps you can take to ensure that the workplace is safe and free of hostile behaviors.

  1. Be self-aware and self-reflective of your own behavior (and ask for feedback about it)
  2. Educate yourself and others about incivility, bullying, and workplace violence
  3. Immediately call out others who are displaying any type of hostile behavior in your presence
  4. If someone reports uncivil or bullying behavior to you, do not be afraid to escalate the situation to the Human Resources department.

Check out this very profound book about incivility:  People of the Lie by M. Scott Peck