I’d like to offer a proposition: Workplace bullying, mobbing, and abuse are much less likely to occur in organizations that embrace and practice authenticity.
This statement requires some unpacking, but I think the inquiry itself is worthy of our consideration.
First, let’s adopt a definition. Management consultant and scholar C.V. Harquail defines an “authentic organization” this way on her Authentic Organizations website:
An organization is authentic when its actions, its character, and its sense of purpose are aligned with and support each other.
Dr. Harquail further elaborates that an authentic organization “actively supports its members, customers, and constituencies in their own authenticity as they work with the organization to achieve its purpose.”
More informally, I read this definition as saying that an organization is authentic when it is comfortable in its own skin. This quality, of course, must come from and extend to key organizational leaders.
When organizations and people are not comfortable in their own skins, then they are out of alignment. This can fuel insecurities and conflicts (internal and external) that, in turn, lead to bullying and similar behaviors.
Think about it: If you’ve experienced or observed workplace bullying, mobbing, or abuse, did it occur in an organization that had its act together, or did it occur in one that was dysfunctional and felt, well, kind of shaky? When assessing individual instances of bullying, understandably we often focus on specific tormenters. However, it’s highly unlikely that they could get away with it while working in an authentic organization. In fact, at such an organization, they might not even be on the payroll to begin with, right?