I made the mistake of answering an out-of-state call from a number I didn’t recognize. A salesperson, of course, squeezing in the last of her cold calls before the end of the week.
“We can help you to write your anti-bullying policy,” she said, after stating the name of her company, which I didn’t bother to catch, but had Solutions in it. Seems they’re all called Something-Something-Solutions or Solutions-Something-Something nowadays.
“Why would I want that?”
“Over half of employees have admitted to being bullied in the workplace,” she said. I caught the hint of a Boston accent.
“And so, you are going to write a policy for me, and with the stroke of a pen, all of this bullying will go away?”
“Without a policy, you leave your company open to serious legal claims from employees.”
“So the policy won’t stop the bullying, it will just make sure that if someone is a victim, we won’t get our asses handed to us in court?”
She hesitated, no doubt consulting her script and deciding to reboot rather than answer me. “Don’t you want to stem the tide of bullying in the workplace?”
“Define your terms.”
“I don’t understand.”
“This survey you mentioned, what constituted bullying?”
“The respondents said that they were treated rudely at least once a week.”
“Just once? It’s obvious they don’t have teenagers.”
I managed to get her to laugh, but she persisted. “Bullying is on the rise”
“I doubt it. What’s on the rise is our awareness of it, and companies like yours seeing a chance to make a buck off it.”
“So you approve of bullying?” I got the feeling that she was leaving her script and headed into uncharted territory.
“Of course not. Look, growing up, I was both the bully and the bullied, and I’m not proud of either. And being a jerk to other people is bad for the work environment and bad for business. Everyone should be treated with respect. But I don’t think it’s going to go away because we add a few paragraphs to our employee handbook. It’s about culture. Remember right after the Clarence Thomas hearings, when sexual harassment became the big issue like bullying is now? I worked at one place that had a well-crafted sexual harassment policy. There was one guy there, a buddy of the boss who was great at his job, kept touching female employees, making them uncomfortable. Only thing that happened was that he was told to stop. He would for a while, and then start right up again. The policy didn’t mean a thing.
“Another place a worked for had an electrician doing some work on the building. The electrician kissed a manager. The manager’s manager fired not only the electrician, but the contractor who hired the electrician. Nothing about doing this in any policy. That sent a message that resounded up and down the organization. It meant more than words.”
“Still, you must have a policy to start with,” she said.
“How about this – Be Nice.”
“That’s not much of a policy.”
“Where I work, it’s not much of a problem. We aren’t always perfect, but from the CEO to the rank and file, we try to treat each other with respect, and deal with it if we don’t. So why don’t you hang up and harass some sucker who might actually buy your useless service?”
“There’s no reason to be rude about it.”
“Sorry to have bullied you.”