Workplace Conflict: The Intersection between Workplace Culture & Workers’ Behavior

Workplace Conflict: The Intersection Between Workplace Culture and Workers’ Behavior

As a research sociologist, I am always looking at the way the culture of an organization influences worker behavior. For instance, if you have a company with strong and perhaps ruthless leaders who focus on the bottom line and use aggression to succeed, you are going to find the same behaviors throughout the management team.

And, you can pretty much assume you will have problems with bullying behaviors such as targeting individuals for ridicule, gossip, and such because it is the same ruthless focus on the bottom line that sets the culture and behavior throughout the company.

Workplace Conflict/Bullying Culture

You may also find in these situations that some people are excluded from meetings, not given all the information to complete their projects, and who feel isolated and targeted for abuse. And finally you will notice that previously high-performing individuals are suddenly depressed, under-performing and withdrawn. These are three common categories, which identify a culture of conflict and bullying: personal attacks, isolation, and changes in performance.

Look at Outcomes First

The authors of this recent article are suggesting that employers and managers look for these behaviors—the outcomes of workplace aggression, rather than look at the aggression itself. And that makes so much sense. It is easier to see outcomes than behaviors. Outcomes are measurable and hard to refute. Anyone can deny that they have targeted someone for failure, but we can see who has been dropped off an email list, who doesn’t know when meetings are held, who didn’t get the latest reports, whose budget has been cut, who is suddenly taking time off and whose performance has dropped. Looking at the outcomes gives us insights into problems that may very well are being caused by workplace aggression from one or a few individuals.

It’s time for HR professionals and managers as well as top leaders to look at the outcomes of a particular company culture that fosters ruthlessness, aggression and insensitivity and then seeing if that culture is helping or hurting the bottom line.

I’m Kathleen Bartle, a strategic consultant on workplace conflict to executives worldwide for more than 20 years.  My work brings individualized solutions to your teams’ lost productivity, loss of key personnel, low morale, and the high costs resulting from bullying, abrasive behaviors and interpersonal workplace conflicts.  You can contact me here.

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