School Yard Bullying. Workplace Harassment. What’s the Connection?

Late last year I wrote a blog on the macroeconomics of gay bullying, arguing that not only are individual children harmed by bullying, but our entire country and our economic system suffer as well. When kids are bullied in school, whether LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) or for any other reason, they often react by engaging in destructive behavior including turning to drugs and alcohol, and dropping out of school. This in the long term harms our country within the competitive global marketplace.

And now I am in good company. Earlier this month, I was very pleased to see our nation’s president, Barack Obama even address this as a critical national issue. (Link to newspaper article.) This article states that 13 million children a year are bullied, which puts them at much greater risk of falling behind in school and engaging in destructive behavior. President Obama highlighted the need to “dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless right of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s not.”

Laura and Kirk Smalley weep in the background while listening to President Obama talk about their family's tragedy. Their 11-year-old son shot himself after being bullied at school.

But let’s take the next step. What happens with the bullies when their bullying is not addressed? They often can grow up and become bullies in corporate America. There is a fancy Human Resources term for this bullying in the extreme – it is called harassment. There are laws as well as corporate policies against harassment. But the bullying can be more subtle and take forms such as employee intimidation and threats of job loss or promotion blocking. This greatly threatens employee productivity as they operate from a sphere of fear instead of freely being able to offer their best to their businesses. Corporations really need to address all forms of employee bullying, blatant and subtle, if they hope to build the highest performing team. A fully inclusive and executed diversity policy that creates a welcoming environment for everyone coupled with “zero tolerance” of any form of workplace harassment, bullying or intimidation will maximize employee job satisfaction, loyalty and productivity.

Thanks to Katie Gailes of SmartMoves International who provided some ideas and inspiration for this blog entry.