Article produced by Danylo Hayakawa, partner at EXEC.

Mocking, isolating, and discrediting colleagues or subordinates damages the victim’s mental health and the business environment.

Intimidating, humiliating, and belittling coworkers through continuous and intentional acts of verbal and virtual violence, with the aim of demoralizing, offending, and/or isolating an individual. This description defines bullying, a practice so prevalent that, according to a study by the Workplace Bullying Institute, it affects over one-third of professionals in the business world.

The term originates from the English word “bully,” referring to “bullies” or individuals with tyrannical behavior who use intimidation to gain advantages over vulnerable individuals. In Brazil, the topic gained prominence in the 2010s with the enactment of Law 13.185/2015, which established the Anti-Bullying Program.

Offenses against work or personal life, isolation, and shouting are some examples of behaviors that fit within the concept of corporate bullying. The aggressor typically adopts a psychologically abusive stance to exert power and control over others, eroding their confidence and impeding their success.

Its recurring practice can even manifest as psychological harassment, defined by the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office as the “exposure of workers to humiliating and embarrassing situations repeatedly and over an extended period in the course of their duties.”

It’s certain that bullying fosters a hostile and toxic work environment, which is no longer tolerated in major corporations that adhere strictly to ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) principles.

According to Danylo Hayakawa, Partner at the EXEC consultancy, specializing in executive recruitment and development, the entry of the new generation into the job market is one of the factors driving a change in mentality regarding this type of mental abuse.

“These professionals bring a different way of viewing the world, with values that no longer accept bullying. Furthermore, due to the increased spotlight on the issue, the line that defines what is offensive or not is becoming clearer, helping people recognize the boundaries for such behavior,” he explains.

Executives are also involved in the problem. When examining the actions and effects of bullying among executives and C-Level individuals, Hayakawa says there are reports involving both the practice of this type of violence by them and the fact that some have been victims at some point in their professional journey.

“There are many executives who have been practicing bullying for a long time and never had serious problems with it. However, with new management trends, this type of behavior is no longer accepted, leading them to have to reinvent themselves, assessing how to change this course to remain fit for taking on new roles,” he states.

Identifying this type of behavior has even become one of the challenges for recruiters and headhunters when hiring an executive: “It’s an extremely delicate issue because we cannot place a high-level professional in a company who believes that practicing bullying is ‘normal.’ Care must be taken to help them understand how harmful this behavior can be for their future. If there’s no change in mindset, they will only encounter closed doors in other companies.”

And when executives are targets of bullying? The EXEC Partner highlights that, in the vast majority of these cases, the company’s culture doesn’t align with the individual values of the professionals. “Each company has a standard for considering what it regards as bullying or not. However, not everyone is obligated to conform to some of them, which can be offensive. It very much depends on the organizational culture,” Hayakawa emphasizes.

As he warns, practices of psychological violence can ruin careers, leaving highly competent executives extremely insecure and lacking in self-confidence. This is reflected in long-term physical and mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, sleep difficulties, reduced productivity, and absenteeism, among others.

Regarding how companies are currently dealing with bullying, Hayakawa points out that it heavily depends on the organization’s maturity: “Some more traditional companies are progressing slowly in this evolutionary journey. Others, with a more open mindset, are already at the forefront, implementing practices to prohibit and deter psychologically violent behavior in the workplace, adopting a transparent, inclusive culture that respects individuals. The fact is that we can say there’s a general concern about the issue in the corporate sphere.”

For corporations, maintaining bullying as a normalized practice can lead to various losses, including low employee retention. “Losing high-level professionals because of this results in the loss of investment in knowledge and financial efficiency, impacting productivity and results,” emphasizes the EXEC Partner.

How to Combat Bullying? According to Hayakawa, to combat bullying within their teams, leaders should set an example by being inspiring professionals who are welcoming and value human connections.

For employees who are or have been targets of this kind of psychological violence, the EXEC Partner recommends seeking help within the company, whether from the HR department or directly from their supervisor – provided the latter is not the aggressor.

“It’s essential to report the problem from the beginning, document the abuse with details, and make it apparent so that there are no unpleasant situations due to misinterpretation of facts. At that point, use the channels the company provides to report the situation,” Hayakawa emphasizes.

The assistance of a therapist or counselor is also an important strategy that can help the aggrieved professional deal with the situation. “If the problem isn’t eradicated after all attempts, it’s time to consider changing jobs,” the executive points out.

Recognizing and combating bullying and harassment practices in the workplace will only bring benefits to the company, as Hayakawa concludes: “In this way, the company will attract the best professionals, have healthy employees, and achieve elevated organizational results.”

Original Material  EXEC – our member from Brazil.

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