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Is 'Bullyship' the new Leadership?

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, isn't it? Remember when bullying wasn’t okay? We’ve seen what tragic consequences can occur when bullies are allowed to run amok. We’ve also seen the campaigns targeting the identification and prevention of bullying, particularly in our schools. But what about bullying that happens every day in our work lives?

2020 has been a year of extremes as we all struggle with the challenges happening in our world. It’s also seen the rapid rise of bullying behavior in our leaders. Behaviors that even a year ago would have been considered unacceptable are now commonplace. Hostility has been taken to a whole new level. Name-calling, temper tantrums and even physical violence have not only increased dramatically, but our sensitivity to it has decreased at an alarming rate.

Not only are we tolerating more, we’re also seeing significantly more support for the bullies out there. The voices calling out bad behavior are sometimes being lost by the noise of those cheering the bully on. As we see this happening in very visible leadership positions, more and more of that behavior is spreading out as bullies everywhere seize the opportunity to do whatever they want, at the expense of their victims.

Consider what the next generation of leaders is being taught. Very few organizations invest in leadership development, so emerging leaders are left to fend for themselves. They look for examples in the behaviors of leaders around them and often take on the characteristics of what they see as success. If name-calling and berating people publicly is cheered on rather than denounced, then we’re encouraging more of that. Even worse, we’re enticing bullies into leadership positions where they can engage in whatever behavior they’d like.

It’s time to reframe what we expect from our leaders. Respect, trust, accountability etc. are all important, but even more important are the behaviors that we allow. And make no mistake, we are allowing what is happening around us. We allow it with our silence and avoidance. We allow it when we ‘sink to their level’. We can’t just ignore it or pretend that it isn’t happening. It is happening and it’s only getting worse. So what will you do about it?


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