Wall Street Journal: If your boss is bullying you, take a good hard look in the mirror

The Wall Street Journal‘s online career advice section includes an article on what to do if you’re being bullied by your boss (link here). I have to wonder if this piece was written by a human resources director skilled in deflecting complaints about bullying managers.

It’s not me, it’s you

The theme of the piece is bullying target, look inward. This may be your fault, and even if not, it’s your problem. Here’s a snippet:

Try to understand that managers have their own burdens to bear. Then turn the mirror on yourself. If the bullying has started fairly recently, it’s possible that your boss is reacting to something you’ve done. He or she could have become tougher on you because your work isn’t as good as it used to be. . . . [I]t doesn’t make the bullying right, but you owe it to yourself and your company to consider that maybe you have been inadvertently fueling your boss’s bad behavior.

They don’t get it

Of course, it’s quite possible that there’s some confusion over terms here. The WSJ seems to conflate bullying with personality conflict, a common trait among those who deny that severe workplace bullying is about abuse, not differences in management or work styles. Such an understanding would explain this piece of advice leading off the column:

If you work for a bully of a boss, career experts recommend confronting him or her directly to discuss the problem and come up with a way to turn things around.

Par for the WSJ course

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when the WSJ badly fumbles this topic.

After all, last year the newspaper characterized the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill as allowing workers to sue for mere “nastiness” (link to my blog post here), which couldn’t be further from the truth.

In 2009, the WSJ ran a misguided op-ed piece (link to my blog post here) claiming that the recession has freed us of workplace jerks because (1) “in times of high unemployment, most people don’t care if they work with jerks” and (2) “jerks are often the first people fired during recessions.”

Who woulda thunk that the recession is the ultimate bully-buster . . . at least according to the Wall Street Journal op-ed page.

6 responses

  1. Why am I not surprised that the WSJ would publish this. I continue to be astonished at how WSJ & Harvard Business publications still advocate the notion that an “harassed and fearful” worker is a productive worker. “treat em mean & keep em mean” mentality might have worked once but we educated now, some better than their employers and that is possibly part of the problem. But we simply must not tolerate sub human treatment any longer. Time to dump the Feudal (master/slave) system!

  2. I too, was bothered by the way the facts were presented and thought the same… must have been written by HR. You are right, they just don’t get it. Or, worse yet, they know exactly what they are doing and turn a blinds eye to their bullying behaviors. “It’s nothing personal”… “It is a business”. That is what I was told.

  3. This article does not surprise me at all. It and others like it are part of the divide and conquer routine that the powerful have used for centuries to keep the less powerful in line. Ten years ago I said to one of my friends as the workplace gets leaner — it will get meaner.

    I am sorry to have been right. And it has extended to society as a whole. Everything from workplace bullying to the nastiness in political discourse to cheating in everything from sports ( think doping) to schoolwork, to beauty pagents ( think botox for kids) to a rise in racism and crime ( in my state it is getting scary)and the almost complete loss of not just civility, but compassion, points to a society that is beginning to unravel. The powerful have set the rest of us against each other. It has become every man/woman for him/her self, winner take all( Survivor, The Apprentice etc) which is why the union movement has all but died. And just as through the ages the masters have told the serfs/slaves/workers that it is somethig they are doing “wrong” and if they work hard enought they will be the “exception” ( name your reality show) — the trend will continue until the serfs/slaves/workers drop the survival mentality and join together to stop the lean and mean culture that has virtually taken over our society,

  4. very disturbing. my impression of the WSJ has majorly declined. this article was probably written by bullies or human resources!

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