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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Workplace Bullies and "Horton Hears a Who"

(Spoiler alert! If you haven't seen the movie and are wanting to do so and don't want to read or hear some bits and pieces from the movie without seeing it first, I suggest you watch it before reading this.)

I watched the movie "Horton Hears a Who" and somehow I was able to connect the characters with some of the characters seen in the workplace.

There's Horton of course, the lovable elephant whose big ears allow him to hear the voices of people who live in a spec to everyone's disbelief most especially his main nemesis in the story represented by a kangaroo. The kangaroo disliked Horton's unusual behavior and for that she went to great lengths to villify him in the eyes of other forest animals. This despite the fact that Horton's behavior whether valid or not has absolutely no impact on her or their little village. The kangaroo convinced everyone that Horton's behavior is not acceptable and led a mob to make him suffer for his unacceptable behavior. Now, if you think about it, there are these types of characters in the workplace. They are called workplace bullies.

I used to think that bullies are found in school and that people shed their "bulliness" off after donning their graduation toga. Well, I was wrong. They are found in work places as well minus the nose punching attacks. In school, the bullies are easier to spot. They mostly come in the form of rude jocks and mean girls. In the workplace however they're not so easy to discern because they don't make you cough out your lunch money or force you into doing their homework. The only typical bully in the work place are SOME bosses who knowingly bully their staffs which is not the target of today's topic. The target of our topic are those employees who don't realize they've already started bullying someone.

Wait a minute, why is this important, you may ask. Workplace bullying is as bad as any form of bullying. It ruins people's seelf esteem, affect their performance and make good workers go away. I also believe that just like my jerk topic, bullies in the workplace can be rehabilitated if they learn the lessons taught by Horton to the Kangaroo that a person is a person no matter how small, or in the case of the workplace no matter how different.

In the workplace, the most likely victim of bullying are the new ones especially if they exhibit behaviors that are "unusual". In one company, a manager recommended the termination of a probationary employee because other members of the team convinced him that it is the right thing to do. Why? because the new employee does not hang out with them, she expresses her disagreement whenever strategies are being discussed and she is not too shy to assert herself. This employee is one of the top performers in the company in terms of productivity and quality of output. Because she makes them uncomfortable, they are willing to lose a good worker. Some bullies have the tendency to nitpick on people they don't like and create mountains of issues to villify them. The workplace does not lack for easily swayed characters who are ready to believe the rumors they hear. There are also those who seem to believe that they have this power to read the minds or motives of others and are quick to judge others for their behaviors. The bully and these other characters make up for a mob that will push to make the life of the hapless employee miserable. There's the cold shoulder treatment, the snide remarks, the nasty emails with blind copies and lastly the building up cases to present to the HR Manager that this person is evil and does not deserve to live among us... Oh, my head aches whenever I encounter these situations.

The thing is, the people who are involved in this kinds of situations are not bullies all the time. They only bully the people they don't like and are extremely nice to others. That's probably why, it's easy for them to muster sympathizers whenever they need support. There are also those who have never bullied anyone in their life until they find someone worth bullying. This happens and it's true. It can happen frequently if we do not nip it in the bud.

in order to avoid bullying in the workplace. I suggest NORMING. People need to agree about the definition of bullying in the work place, recognize it as evil and agree on a set of behaviors that will prevent anyone from committing this nasty behavior. People should also learn to appreciate diversity and by that I don't only mean diversity of race, gender, sexual preference or religion. They should also be able to accept personalities. If one person likes to brag all the time, that doesn't mean he is a bad person, if one person dresses like a bimbo, it doesn't follow that she is... or what if she is, so what?! Can she do her job? Can she work with others? Does she follow the company policy? That's all that matters right? Lastly, if you don't like the person, leave him be. You don't need to befriend everyone in the company. You just need to be civil and professional enough to work with them.
What do you think?


  1. Anonymous9:49 AM

    Totally agree!

  2. Anonymous1:37 PM

    Couldn't help but nod my head most of the time. I wish my "kids" can read this stuff!

  3. Anonymous1:41 AM

    Is it fair that my supervisor disapproved my one-day sick leave even though I had submitted a medical certificate the day upon reporting to work? Reason behind it is just that I have failed to notify her on the same day regarding my illness. Is there any rule governing the sick leave policy in a private company, can I file a complaint against my supervisor. If yes, where can I ask for legal advice and assistance?

  4. if by rule you mean law, there is none. If your company policy is to inform your supervisor about an absence within the day, noncompliance can be a ground for disapproval of leave, in some cases even a policy deviation (AWOL) warranting a disciplinary action. I suggest that you make an appeal to your boss or HR to reconsider. You need a good reason to justify your failure to call.


If you have an opinion about this topic or a related experience you want to share, please feel free to leave a comment but please be respectful. No bad words please or I will be constrained to delete it.