Bullies Winning in the Workplace

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Big companies are hotbeds for bullies. Employees are finally retaliating. Big-business escapee and global trends forecaster Babs Ryan reports in the new biz book "America's Corporate Brain Drain" that top talent are getting even by leaving Goliath companies, for good.

"There's a woman at work who's making my life misery. My colleague says I should talk to the human resources department. Should I?"

"Absolutely not," advises big-business escapee and author Babs Ryan in "America's Corporate Brain Drain" (Sparks Worldwide, August 2008, ISBN 9780981494708, hardcover, braindrain.BIZ).

Studies show 1 percent of bullies are fired. Only 7 percent are reprimanded, often in a way that causes escalation of abuse in more covert ways such as spreading more lies (the top tactic), coercing coworkers, assigning ambiguous tasks with impossible deadlines, or sabotaging projects.

Says Ryan, "More often, human resources (HR) staff turn against the target. In most big companies, the person who complains about the problem is the problem. That's why today only 3 percent of bullied employees bother to file complaints. The rest start circulating their resumes." The U.S. Hostile Workplace Survey found that HR took negative actions against targets 32 percent of the time, and did nothing in more than half of reported cases.

"America's Corporate Brain Drain" argues that the see-no-evil response by senior managers and HR has caused the best people to leave big companies, for good. The result is a swell of me-too products and lousy service for customers.

"You're more likely to be a target if you are better educated, more popular, or more competent than your colleagues," says Ryan, who boomeranged from senior management positions at GE, Citibank, and Kawasaki to small-business owner forecasting international trends and developing new products for clients in 207 countries. "More than 80 percent of bullied workers, who are typically the more innovative and productive employees, leave. Guess what the company is left with."

Women target women 84 percent of the time. Ryan laments, "The majority of women corporate deserters say nothing could attract them back to the corporate world. The best and brightest, who have skill sets and experience to find other jobs quickly, are fleeing to smaller businesses or entrepreneurships that compete directly with the Goliath they left. There they develop product improvements that anti-change bullies blocked."

How widespread is the problem? Statistics show employees are three times more likely to be bullied if they work for a big company, where 35 percent of employees have come across Attila or Endora.

Fault lies squarely with "bully-breeders--incompetent managers who neglect to investigate accusations by either party and fail to fire offenders, often after being duped into friendships with charming bullies," according to Ryan.

Ryan says spotting toxic employees and employers is easy: "Bullies talk about people; workers talk about how to improve products and please customers. Toxic companies sponsor 'Dealing with Difficult People' courses for their employees. Good employers simply fire the handful of difficult people."

She adds, "Large companies usually have well-worn processes for exit interviews of disgruntled employees, but rarely a process for exiting managers who encourage and advocate bullying through turning a blind eye, which carries extensive cost and consumer implications."

What should targets do? Leave, says Ryan. Workplace Bullying Institute research shows bullies are repetitive offenders, pushing a target out the door every 17 months, and then finding a new victim within two weeks. "Coworkers know the Rottweiler isn't generating the ideas or doing the work. Companies who have previously rewarded manager's-best -friend are not going to treat the fourth victim any differently."

"Since the real problem isn't the bully, but rather incompetent management that allows it to continue, the best way to retaliate is to pack your acquired knowledge and move on as quickly as possible, preferably to work for an up-and-coming competitor," says Ryan. "A better job is the best revenge."

About the Book:
The Chicago book launch of "America's Corporate Brain Drain" (Sparks Worldwide, August 2008, ISBN 9780981494708, hardcover, $26.95) is Tuesday, September 9, 7:30 p.m. at Barbara's Bookstore, 1218 S Halsted at Roosevelt, Chicago 60607. The short discussion is open to the public. Annoying phone menus, nickel-and-diming airlines, "free" checking accounts that charge for checkbooks, and pointless points programs--big business has lost its minds. "America's Corporate Brain Drain" reveals that the swell of lousy service and me-too products is because the best people no longer work in Goliath companies. The book discloses why big companies retain bullies while losing top talent. Provocative executive escapee and globetrotter (78 countries) Babs Ryan weaves travel tales of China, Dubai, Cambodia, India, Iran, Japan, and England with facts to compare the way the world works with why America's behemoth corporations don't. Visit the Media Lobe at braindrain.biz to download photographs. Brain Drain is available in bookstores and at amazon.com. More information, reviews and excerpts are available at braindrain.biz.

About Babs Ryan:
Big-business escapee Babs Ryan has successfully boomeranged from senior leadership roles in Fortune 100 companies (GE Capital division head of new product development, Citibank VP of business development and P&L leader), chief marketing officer at motorcycle giant Kawasaki UK, and top directorships in blue chip advertising agencies to small-business owner with clients in 207 countries. Babs has seven U.S. patent applications. She has traveled in 78 countries and worked abroad for 11 years. She is founder and president of a Chicago-based enterprise that forecasts global consumer trends and translates them into multinational new products. She has worked with AT&T, Allergan (Botox Cosmetic), American Express, De Beers, Eli Lilly, Ford Motor Co., J. Walter Thompson, IBM, Procter & Gamble, Walmart, and Western Union. The author is available for speaking engagements on how big-companies can create an environment for innovation and competitive victory.

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