This week, I’ve been thinking about that well known assertion “one rotten apple spoils the barrel”.
The phrase makes sense in small firms, where a ‘bad apple’ bully is in contact with everyone, but what about larger firms where a bully is confined to overseeing one department?
In larger organisations, it’s usual that each department has its own independent head. And the issue of bullying becomes much harder to deal with when it’s isolated to a particular department, especially when all other departments are run very differently. A company composed of completely separate departments can be ignorant of toxic behaviour in one area until it’s too late.
Here are just a few of the difficulties from this all too common scenario:
- · Staff from the stricken department may remain deeply loyal to the firm as a whole, even whilst hating the environment they are in.
- · Other departments will be aware of rumours of bullying, but unaware as to the true extent. They may even revel in the fact that a poorly run department next door makes them look even better in comparison.
- · The troubled department’s problems will be viewed as that particular department’s problems – to sort out themselves.
- · If you were to send a firm wide staff satisfaction survey out, the vast majority would confirm their work environment is simply lovely. The company ethos is great.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I think what really makes it worse for the unfortunate employees in “Department Deranged” is that the rest of the firm has it okay. Overall their company may be run by lovely people who acknowledge and encourage their happy workforce. It’s a game of comparison. The problem is not that the barrel is spoiled, but the fact that all the other apples are oblivious to the quarantined rot.
Perhaps that’s why we feel that strange mix of shame or guilt when we’re bullied. It’s impossible sometimes not to be green with envy as we look at some of the happy, healthy green apples we work with, as we endure being psychologically mashed to pulp.