On November 21, 2006, I was notified that some information I wanted to publish concerning my ability to train and counsel businesses about workplace hostility could not be published. The basis for the determination was domestic violence has nothing to do with recruiting.
What compelled pushing that article back into public awareness was the sentencing of an 89-year-old man named George Weller and frustration with keeping this critical knowledge to myself rather than teaching and advocating about it.
Mr. Weller, in July 2003, drove his car 240 feet into a crowd of people using the farmers' market in Santa Monica. He killed 10 people with his car and injured more than 60 others. One of the witnesses described the look on his face as he accelerated his car and sent it hurtling into the mass of bodies and carts. It was a stern and determined look. I've seen this look before. And I've watched as a car was driven into the path of a pedestrian who was just missed by the collision because of a passenger's intervention.
Those at Weller's sentencing who were first- or second-degree victims said they wanted him to be present at his sentencing so that he could not only hear the words being spoken that day but also to give him the opportunity to actually express on his own behalf the remorse the he [needs to] feels for his acts. The trouble is, Weller and the abusive personality, would only have a fleeting second of remorse, if that, and then resort to justifying their acts. Indeed, Weller is cited as having gotten out of his car on the day of the tragic incident and asked, "If you saw me coming, why didn't you get out of the way?" These are almost the identical words uttered by the other driver of several years before.
Weller was convicted of having committed a crime, not for having had an accident. He was found to have demonstrated gross negligence. Gross negligence, as explained to the jury by Judge Michael Johnson, is "more than ordinary carelessness. * * * A person acts with gross negligence when the way he acts . . . amounts to a disregard for human life."
So it goes with an abuser or a workplace bully. They do not see their target as a human. They only see a vessel that they want to control or an obstacle that they want to subvert. The concept that they may be causing severe emotional, psychological, financial, or physical harm is of no consequence to them. In fact, they feel their target is supposed to suffer those consequences because the target is interfering with the abuser's ultimate goals. They're in the way and inconvenient.
These are the last stages of the abuser, the workplace bully presentment. It's important to recognize this person before they get into the workplace, or when the initial signs of their propensity begin to surface. It's important to be proactive in dealing with this dynamite keg.
One thing that is classic in the abusive personality is the fact that they make a sweeping and overwhelming initial impression. The graciousness knocks you off your feet. They are generous to a fault. Their gratuities are grand in some way, disproportionate to what they are intended to reward. Whatever they do is expansive in nature as though to show off the fact that they can do the enormous.
The next thing this personality type will do is quietly, graciously become focused on their target. They will little by little find fault with little things that eventually erode the person's credibility -- and marketability. This can sometimes begin during the first or second interview.
These are the initial signs of the abuser, the workplace bully. There are additional indicia and practices which can be discussed at another time. For today, it is important to know some of the first signs and the end results so that you can be mindful of these matters as you interview, as you develop screening discussions to let this personality type disclose itself before being admitted to your workplace. Once they're inside, the poison that can be released on the culture can be extremely costly. Instead of just the one being found grossly negligent, you and your company will also be found to have made a grossly negligent hiring decision that created an unsafe work environment.
Handling the Abuser
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