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As the official inquiry into the controversy-wrought U.K. tabloid News of the World deepens, new information emerges about just what kind of workplace the now-defunct newsroom was, the Daily Beast reports.It was apparently horrible and full of jerks, Guardian reporter Nick Davies testified before government officials. Davies blew the lid off the phone-hacking scandal that drew enough bad publicity to eventually shutter the 168-year-old paper.
His sources there — some 15 or 20 staffers who asked for anonymity out of fear for their jobs, and then some — told Davies of “a culture of bullying,” he testified, adding that “the fear is real.”
One tabloid writer previously told the government panel that he had fabricated entire stories to please his bosses. “Your job is to simply write the stories how they want them written,” he said.
Unfortunately, maybe the downright fear instilled in those employees isn’t so surprising. An astounding 45 per cent of American workers say they’ve experienced workplace abuse, according to a 2007 nationwide poll by the Employment Law Alliance.
Stanford professor Robert Sutton wouldn’t be shocked, either. After writing an article on the topic in 2004, Sutton received hundreds of e-mails from people who had been bullied in the workplace, so he decided to write The No arsehole Rule. In it, he profiles some notorious bosses, such as Al Dunlap, the ex-CEO of Sunbeam who has been described as a “dog barking at you for hours … He just yelled, ranted and raved. He was condescending, belligerent and disrespectful.”
Difficult co-workers not only reduce productivity, Sutton argues, but they induce intelligent and qualified employees to quit. In more extreme cases like at News of the World, they even push employees to cross legal lines.
Sutton offers a few pointers on how to avoid those poisonous coworkers before things get too out of hand — and, more importantly, how to avoid becoming one of them yourself:
The best way to deal with destructive or negative co-workers is to limit your exposure to these people. Meet with them as rarely as possible or schedule short meetings in rooms without chairs—this can shorten a meeting by 34 per cent.
Lean on trustworthy co-workers
It’s not your place to change your co-worker’s behaviour—and you probably can’t anyway—but look for help from trusted friends and co-workers, and focus on things that you can control, like feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. That will make all the difference.
De-emphasise status differences
Companies that offer preferred parking spots, or large corner offices, tend to experience more bullying in the workplace. Another good way to keep nasty attitudes outside the office is to write your company rules down for everyone to see.
Give others credit when deserved
Especially if work was done collaboratively. And never interrupt while exchanging ideas or discussing projects with coworkers.
Share your ideas without fear
Also, be willing to share your information with co-workers. A tendency to hold cards close to one’s chest—for example, closing tabs or computer documents when someone comes by—gives an impression of mistrust and makes co-workers feel like competitors.
Don’t blame others when times get rough
If all you seem to come up with are excuses, and other co-workers to direct the blame, then you’re on the wrong path. criticise others only in the same measure as you are willing to be critiqued yourself.
Don’t take it personally
If you work with people who treat you like dirt, they have not earned your passion and commitment, Sutton says. A temporary solution is to try to numb yourself from their negative comments and actions as much as possible.
Try polite confrontation
“Some people really don’t mean to be jerks,” Sutton says. And they don’t know they’re behaving like one until you say something. He received an e-mail from an office worker telling him her boss finally backed off after she told him his behaviour was “absolutely unacceptable and I simply won’t tolerate it.”
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