Why you shouldn’t tolerate bullying even if your job is really important

  1. There’s a strange class of people who will treat others respectfully if they need them, but with cruelty if they can get away with it. Having the policy that you won’t leave a job because you think the impact you’re having is just too important, paints a huge target on your back for these people.

    They respond to incentives, and if they see you’ll quit if your wellbeing isn’t taken seriously, they’ll pay attention to it. But if you show you’ll suck it up, they’ll keep taking advantage until they hit the limit of what you’ll put up with.

    Basically, if your policy is ‘I won’t stand for bullying, not even once, no matter what’ you’ll suffer some inconvenience, but be bullied much less often.

    Sometimes you can’t see how leaving a shitty work situation will help fix the underlying problem within the organisation. But if the staff someone is line managing consistently quit and report their dissatisfaction with how they were managed, in a functional project that person will be replaced, or at least won’t be in a position to take on greater responsibility.

    (If a job is unpleasant in a way that can’t be fixed at a sensible cost, this incentive argument doesn’t apply. Sometimes teams have to go through difficult periods together — so long as they are giving one another’s welfare proper consideration, that need not be a trigger to quit.)
  2. People usually overestimate how much they can handle ongoing interpersonal conflict without burning out. It’s one of the most reliable ways to cause mental health problems that lower your wellbeing and slow down our career, or cause you to give up entirely.
  3. It’s hard to do your best work, meet people you want to work with in future, and learn the most you can, when you’re acting out of fear or anxiety rather than sincere passion.
  4. It’s important to set good cultural norms for everyone around you.

    You’ll have some colleagues who will act with more cruelty or tolerate others doing so, if they get the impression that that is what’s tolerated within their organisation or industry. This can lead to less good being done in the long run.

    By showing you won’t stand for it, you have a social impact by stopping that cycle from setting in.

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