96% of survey respondents have experienced bullying at work, and 54% of workplace bullies have been at it for 5-plus years

Brian regularly emailed his direct reports at all hours of the night. When one didn’t immediately answer, he would hurl a volley of emailed threats and personal insults. Team members felt afraid, vulnerable, and helpless. Many quit. The turnover cost millions of dollars – not to mention the disruption of service to customers. In spite of employees’ attempts to complain, Brian’s behavior continued for years. Here are other real stories:

  • “My former manager would lash out, using foul language, telling the entire staff they were acting like idiots. Then turn silent. For 15 years he was moved from one department to another.”
  • “The assistant to our VP is a control freak. She hangs up on you, micromanages, and ‘owns’ the conference room and the supply closet. Everyone talks behind her back, but no will approach her, because of the boss – with whom she had an affair. I am looking for a new job.”
  • “Our CEO would regularly say, ‘You’re so stupid’ and, ‘You should be cleaning toilets instead of doing proposals.’ He threw things, slammed things, and forced quitting employees to a ‘walk of shame’ around the office. Everyone feared standing up to him, including his own wife, who also worked here.”

According to a new study by Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, co-authors of New York Times bestsellers Crucial Conversations and Influencer, 96 percent of respondents say they have experienced workplace bullying. Eighty-nine percent of those bullies have been at it for more than a year; 54 percent for more than five years. In some cases, the survey found, bullies have continued in the same job for 30-plus years.

“We were astonished that in so many cases the person most likely to remain in his or her job was the bully,” said Grenny. “Bullying can’t persist unless there is a complete breakdown in all four systems of accountability – personal (the victim himself or herself), peer (others who witness the behavior), supervisory (hierarchical leaders), and formal discipline (HR). So it was shocking to see in how many organizations not just one – but all four of these systems were terribly weak.”

Equally surprising was the widespread effect of bullying. It was rare that the alleged bully picked a single target. In fact, 80 percent of respondents said the bully affected five or more people.

So, how do you stop a bully? The study showed that the most effective deterrent is the skillful verbal intervention of the person being targeted. Next most effective is informal peer accountability. While in high-accountability organizations all four must be strong – personal, peer, boss and formal discipline – the study showed that the first breakdown is the first. When individuals and peers who experience or see bullying say nothing, the bully gets emboldened. And the more who join in the silence, the more evidence the bully has that the behavior is sustainable.

A lack of formal policies similarly enables bullying. Only 51 percent say their company has a policy for dealing with bullies, and only 7 percent know of anyone who has ever used that policy. (Six percent say the policy did work to stop a bully.)

According to the study, workplace bullying takes on a variety of forms. Of those who had seen or experienced bullying:

  • 62% saw sabotaging of others work or reputations
  • 52% saw browbeating, threats, or intimidation
  • 4% saw physical intimidation or assault

Grenny and Maxfield offered specific tips for dealing with a workplace bully:

  • Reverse your thinking. Most of us suffer in silence because all we consider are the risks of speaking up. Those who speak up and hold others accountable tend to do the opposite. They think first about the risks of NOT speaking up. Then they give thought to the risks of speaking up. Changing the order of the risk assessment makes you much more likely to take action.
  • Facts first.Present your information, as if talking to a jury. Stick with the detailed facts. Strip out any judgmental or provocative language and be specific.
  • Validate concerns. Often the bullying behavior was triggered by some legitimate concern. Be sure to validate that need – while demonstrating an unwillingness to tolerate the way it was handled.
  • Share natural consequences. Let them know what the consequences are of this way of handling their concerns – to you, others, customers, work projects, etc.
  • Hold boundaries.Let them know how you expect to be treated in the future. Ask for their commitment. And let them know what your next step will be if there is a recurrence.

“When dealing with a bully, too often we fall victim to thinking ‘this is how they are, and nothing I do will change them or their actions,’” said Maxfield. “Actually, years of research prove that’s not true. A bully can change if someone stands up to him or her and helps them see the consequences of their actions. Otherwise, it will simply continue.”

A final thought: Being bullied is also expensive, according to the study. Twenty percent said dealing with workplace bullies cost them 7-plus hours a week in lost time. That’s $8,800 in lost wages to those workers or their employers every year.

Note to Editor: Grenny and Maxfield are available for interview. For a high-res infographic of the survey, click here.

About VitalSmarts:

An innovator in corporate training and leadership development, VitalSmarts is home to the award-winning Crucial Conversations, Crucial Accountability, Influencer, and Change Anything Training and New York Times bestselling books of the same titles. When used in combination, these courses enable organizations to achieve new levels of performance by changing employee behavior. VitalSmarts has consulted with more than 300 of the Fortune 500 companies and trained more than one million people worldwide.

Personal Accountability Training is an upcoming concept in India and relatively new within the organizational Training and Development community, this article on personal accountability will clarify the purpose, characteristics and application.

Personal Accountability Training

It is important to note that Personal Accountability-Based training is not intended to replace traditional skill-building, which is used for the enhancement of skills to improve one’s effectiveness on the job. The later has its own importance and need. In fact, participants do develop skills during this implementation approach. There are two purposes that are interconnected for the use of Personal Accountability-Based consulting and training. First, is the application at an individual level.

Employees see organizational change as a negative experience that one has to avoid or survive. Reality is that the organizational change is an opportunity for self-growth and personal transformation in areas of our life that employees may have ignored in the past.

At an individual level, Personal Accountability-Based training is designed to assist an individual in making the transformation that’s necessary to respond to societal and organizational challenges.

Organizations today are also struggling to bring changes that shift its paradigm of operation. This usually implies a culture change with a new and higher level of functioning. Yet while many organizations implement Total Quality and Continuous Improvement efforts, these remain as separate programs, rather than emerging as culture change.

Personal Accountability-Based training deals with dysfunctional operational areas and the environmental conditions that contribute to those areas. Typically, this approach is best used with Total Quality Implementation, implementation of self-directed teams, and redefining the role and functioning of leadership.

Personal accountability training has following features which distinguishes it from skill-building:

1. Quantitative:  Personal Accountability training results to accomplish business outcomes which are measurable by quantitative performance results and by environmental/cultural changes that back these results.

2. Focuses on Systems rather than processes: A system for achieving the desired performance results and culture change is first developed. Then, the skills required to implement the system are recognized and combined together. This ensures that the strategies and techniques are practical.

3. Real-Life/Real-Time Implementation: Rather than class room training technique, all learning is executed through real-life problems, systems and functions of their normal work routine. This way, they will be ensured of the practicality and as well as ensuring a high return on investment.

4. Social involvement: Other people in the system provide two important functions: Accountability and Support. This could be either a manager or a teammate. This is a critical part of  Personal Accountability training since the focus is on recovery, not perfection.

5. Its measurable: Another part of the system is the ongoing measurement of improvement from personal accountability training; it is a function of the continuous improvement and learning that is at the basis of this approach.

If you would like to learn more about how accountable you are or your organization is, I invite you to visit http:www.vitalsmartsindia.com or call us at 1800-102-1345(toll Free).

Related Links:– Crucial Accountability®,   Crucial Conversations®,    Change Anything®,    Influencer

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Most workers try to shield their use of social media in the office, but a new report claims it’s time for the higher-ups to embrace the practice during working hours.

A new report led by David Maxfield, co-author of Crucial Conversations, along with Mike Rognlien, learning and development manager at Facebook, claims social media has untapped potential in the workplace, despite the often negative connotations that social media is a time waster in the office.

embracing-socil-mediaThe report, which studies 2,698 people, finds three in five workers social media has resulted in better relationships at work. And, one in three have used social media to further work-related projects. However, only 25% of organizations have formal training on how to use social media in the workplace.

Maxfield says workers who are not physically connected may have collaboration issues when tacking projects, and that social media can help close this gap.

“A lot of our knowledge workers today are narrow specialists, and are inner-dependent,” he says. “They may not be physically co-located, which makes collaboration difficult.”

He says companies employ social media different to help increase productivity and creatively tackle problems. He gives examples of a human resources company that created wellness campaigns on a social network, legal firms using Twitter to keep up with changing regulations and a university that is using Facebook to monitor ongoing issues and trends in alcohol and substance abuse.

“I was surprised at how innovative some of the uses of social media were in the study,” he says. “More than three-quarters of the people surveyed use social media at work, and 61% say it has led to better relationships. It’s all positive, but organizations are still stuck in the notion that social media is not for work, and that it is instead of work.”

The idea of using social media to better workplace relationships and advancement is still developing, Maxfield says, not unlike the idea of using phones in the office in the 1960s.

“Unless you were a manager, you couldn’t use a phone in the workplace back then,” he says. “People assumed that if you were on the phone, then you were not working. Today, we expect to connect with people, but organizations are still trying to discourage using social media. They should instead be offering training on social media benefits.”

When it comes to changing this mentality, leaders should lead the charge, Maxfield says. Here are a few tips to get started:

1. Set up a campaign: – Think about upcoming projects and initiatives and how social platforms may fit in for promotion among your team, Maxfield suggests.

“Virtual groups like Yammer, Facebook and more help encourage collaboration.”

2. Check your point-of-view: – When posting anything online, he says to be cautions of creating disagreements and dissention in the office, especially when emotions might get involved.

“This is where social media tends to stumble. This can be risky, you can’t read between [a post’s] lines like you can in person.”

He suggests thoroughly reviewing each post and removing any hot-button words that could provoke offense.

3. Take initiative: – Bosses need to set the example of using social media effectively in the workplace, Maxfield says.

“Leaders need to start using social media in a proactive way,” he says. “Don’t just model social media at work, get work done. Social media provides the context to collaborate, even if you aren’t in a room together.”


Social media can boost productivity, improve decisions, and drive sales, but the danger is that managers will be deluded into thinking it can substitute for the day-to-day investment in face-to-face connections.

In a recent study of 2,698 people, corporate training company VitalSmarts found that three in five workers say that social media tools result in better relationships at work. And one in three have found them invaluable in work-related projects.

social-media-vs-physical-onePeople are using these tools in surprisingly original ways, too. For example, one firm creates Twitter back channels for webinars employees attend, which allows attendees to comment in real time on the topic with each other.

Like the telephone, social media is becoming ubiquitous, and MIT’s Alex Pentland helps us understand why we should be cautious about this.

Pentland and his team recently strapped devices he calls “sociometric badges” to a vast number of people. The device detects body movement, location, and sound, and he uses it to gather real-time data about social interactions in the workplace and beyond.

When he strapped the badges to workers from a number of businesses and industries–for example, a 3,000-person Bank of America call center–over a six-week period, the badges showed who talked to whom and for how long.

From the data these devices procured, his team learned that the single human factor that most drives every measure of team and organizational performance is frequency of face-to-face interaction.

Specifically, the more employees connect face-to-face with people outside and inside the organization, the better things get. The less it happens, the worse things get. Period.

For example, the Bank of America call center data showed stunted social interaction between employees. This makes sense when you consider that call centers are all about productivity. Modern tracking tools tell managers instantly if an employee is taking too long to handle calls or too long picking up the next one.

And yet, surprisingly, Pentland’s research showed that the teams with the highest productivity were the ones that broke from this norm. These teams spent more time face-to-face with each other and with their supervisors.

At the MIT team’s suggestion, Bank of America changed its break policy. Whereas previously breaks were staggered so that only one team member would be on break at a time, the teams began taking their breaks together. This small change yielded an immediate $15 million annual productivity boost.

Trust and teamwork can be enhanced through virtual contact, but the physics of building them is a fundamentally physical process. Some of the primary tasks of leadership are modeling, encouraging, and enabling trust-building contact of the most personal kind.

Today’s leaders are becoming enamored–and rightly so–with the efficiency of social media tools. Some organizations release two-minute YouTube videos at the end of every pay period to update employees on important news, a valuable act that increases employees’ sense of inclusion and engagement.

At the same time, I see worrying signs that managers fantasize that uploading a two-minute video can be a substitute for stopping by cubicles, rolling up their sleeves, and eating lunch with the rest of the team.

Relationships require investment and risk. Nothing says, “you can trust me” like getting to the other side of a tough issue shoulder to shoulder.

Influence can be enhanced but not replaced by tools that extend the sense of connection beyond the physical world. Hopefully this round of innovation will see us using but not abusing the remarkable benefits of social media.

About Author: – Joseph Grenny is a four-time New York Times best-selling author, keynote speaker, and leading social scientist for business performance. He is the co-founder of VitalSmarts, an innovator in corporate training and leadership development.

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ICrucial Accountability Logo am geQtting incredibly frustrated by the various meetings I attend. I feel they are increasingly ineffective. Information that is shared is not understood and later attendees claim they were not aware of the matters we discussed. In my opinion, technology is to blame. During the meetings, people are frequently checking their e-mails and texts and responding to them instead of paying attention. Am I just a dinosaur unwilling to get with the times, or are others being rude? What can be done?



A You are not a “dinosaur” that has to get with the times; you are one of an increasing number that see the inappropriate use of technology as a real problem. Meetings are less effective when people try to multitask. Many groups are unconsciously changing their norms and culture by not noticing or addressing the increased use of digital diversions during meetings. What was once seen as a rare interruption is now more often the norm.

distracted meetingUnfortunately, you are a victim of Electronic Displays of Insensitivity, or EDIs. We recently conducted an online survey of 2,025 subjects on this very topic. Eighty-nine percent of respondents reported damaged relationships due to friends and family ignoring them as a result of the insensitive use of technology, and 90 percent agree, you should not answer text messages or check social media profiles in public; yet 67 percent regularly sees EDIs on the dinner table, 52 percent see them frequently during customer service interactions, and 63 percent report regularly seeing this abuse in meetings. Ninety percent of respondents report the situation is worse than a year ago. To make matters worse, two out of three respondents have no idea how to confront an EDI and one in three just ignore it. You can see the study here.

Perhaps there are occasions when someone should have his or her Smartphone on and be available during a meeting. A staff meeting where a doctor needs to be reached in case of an emergency is an example; or a key manager that must be available during a team meeting for an important client or customer might also be appropriate. However, in the vast majority of cases we should use the “movie rule”—make your calls, texts, or e-mails before or after the meeting, not during the meeting. If there is an urgent need to be available during the meeting, get the group’s concurrence up front; even then, step out of the meeting to respond.

My advice to you is this: as you begin a meeting, whether it’s your meeting or someone else’s, state the facts. Factually describe what has been happening. You might say, “In our meetings I’ve noticed that many of us check our phones for texts and e-mails during the meeting. Frequently, we are sending messages.”

Explore natural consequences: Share some of the consequences and problems you see results from people’s use of digital communication. Perhaps you could say something like, “I’ve noticed that while this is happening, those involved seem to check out of the meeting. Information is often missed and I believe ideas are not being shared that could help the team. I’ve come to this conclusion because people are often unaware of information discussed or key points that were made during meetings that they attended. I think, at best, we are undermining our effectiveness; at worst, we are doing damage to our stakeholders.”

Invite others to dialogue: Ask others to share their view. “Do you see this differently? Am I missing something?” Listen carefully to others’ views. In most cases, the reason people feel the need to constantly check messages is so they can stay in touch or not miss anything of importance. Help your teammates understand it’s usually a trade-off between accomplishing the team’s purposes and individual convenience. The answer usually comes from being organized and disciplined.

Propose a solution: Ask others if they would be willing to try an experiment. Propose the team use the “movie rule” for two meetings and see if things improve. Create clear expectations so everyone understands what the new guidelines are.

Begin every meeting with a reminder: Review the team’s agreement about not using digital communication and ask if anyone needs an exception to the rule. Discuss any requests and agree together, how to proceed.

Review results: At the end of the meeting check to see how the attendees felt the meeting went. Did they notice any difference? Did they see these new guidelines as an improvement? Are they willing to do it again next time? Often, after two “digital-free” meetings, team members see the changes, recognize the improvements, and are willing to continue.

If they have not become full converts, you can agree on compromises that still make things better, like turning the phones off when a critical issue must be discussed that requires everyone’s undivided attention.

The key is not allowing EDIs to become “undiscussable.” Respectfully talk about what is happening and how it can be improved. In this way, you develop an open culture of continually improving your team’s effectiveness and not defaulting to Electronic Displays of Insensitivity.

I wish you the very best,


About The Author:

Ron McMillan

Ron McMillan is coauthor of four New York Times bestsellers, Crucial Conversations, Crucial Accountability, Influencer, and Change Anything.

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