The Truth About Bullying in Project Management
This is a guest post by Paul Pelletier LL.B., PMP.
Neutrality is not an option
If you choose to be neutral in instances of injustice, you will be on the side of the oppressor. If you choose to be neutral in situations of injustice, you will be on the side of the oppressor.
This applies to bullies just as much as it does to elephants. Bullying can be just as detrimental in the workplace, as it is in schools or other areas of society. It causes the well-known emotional impacts and presents a number of challenges for project managers and the organizations where it is occurring.
Projects are subsets within workplaces. Because project management involves working closely with others, it is possible for a bully to have a devastating impact on project success.
Workplace bullies can be difficult to identify, adding to the confusion. Bullying is a tactic employed by the perpetrator to gain an advantage in the workplace. Bullies are often highly skilled workers who use social manipulation to target those who might be threatening their career and charm those who do well. A senior manager or supervisor might say, “That person seems great” or “She always gets the results.” Bear in mind that while bullies are often expelled by good employers, most of them are promoted.
There is also a significant connection between ethics and neutrality. The PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct includes the statement “We report any illegal and unethical conduct.”
Also, the Code states that neutrality is not an option.
Workplace bullying: A definition
Paul PelletierThe Workplace Bullying and Institute(WBI) defines workplace bullying to be “repeatedly, health-harming maltreatment, verbal abuse or conduct which is intimidating, threatening, humiliating or sabotage that interfers with work or some combination thereof”.
It is a systematic, laser-focused campaign of interpersonal destruction. It has nothing to do work. It is driven by the bully’s agenda and prevents work from being done. After all, that is exactly what project managers are responsible for – getting project work done through other people’s efforts.
Bullying at work can be divided into three types.
Manipulation of work, and
Abuses can range from insults and offensive remarks to giving unmanageable workloads to withholding relevant information to inappropriate email or social networking to stealing credit for work.
Bullying and its impact on projects
Bullying can have a wide range negative and financial consequences on projects. The most obvious impacts are on project success, team performance and budgets.
Shane Cowishlaw reports on Stuff.co.nz that workplace bullying is costing New Zealand “hundreds and millions of dollars.” Australia reports losses in excess of $500 billion. For companies in the larger United States, workplace bullying-related expenses are more than $200 billion.
Coping strategies to deal with bullying at work
How can a project manager manage bullying within an organization? This is a complex topic that I created a workshop and presentation on.
The best way to find out is to understand what you have control over and influence to help you create an action plan. You may find that cultural norms you have observed in your unit are not adopted by the entire organization. This may allow you to influence others outside the unit.
Next: For a better way of wor, read the 6 principles for stakeholder engagement