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One for all, and all for one

Posted by Ken Klaus on July 1, 2008


I’m sure many of you will recognize the blog title as the rallying call in Alexandre Dumas’ story, The Three Musketeers.  One of the most memorable scenes for me occurs at the end of the story, at least in the movie version, when d’Artagnan is finally confronted by a man (and his posse) who has been pursuing him throughout the movie.  When the newly commissioned musketeer steps forward to face his enemy, the other musketeers Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 also advance and remind d’Artagnan, “we don’t just protect the king; we protect each other as well.”  At which point the four musketeers are joined by the entire regiment and d’Artagnan’s enemy drops his sword and runs for his life.

I’m fortunate to work on a team which has embraced the “one for all, and all for one” mind-set.  We have a shared set of values that define and guide our team: respect, honesty, collaboration, accountability, integrity, and sincerity.  We’ve learned the best way to ensure success is to cooperate with rather than to compete against one another.  We celebrate the accomplishments of individual team members and we support one another professionally as well as personally.  Most of the challenges we face as a team are project related – short deadlines, unexpected fire drills, software and hardware meltdowns, etc.  We rarely have people related problems, mainly because our management team takes quick and decisive action to address these issues, either by educating the worker on our shared values or, on rare occasions, managing them out of the organization.  Sadly, I know not all teams are as fortunate and interpersonal conflict can be a serious problem, especially when the team must deal with a bully.

Bullies are easy to spot.  They’re egocentric; they value their own ideas above the ideas of others; they take no pleasure in seeing others succeed; and they never say they’re sorry – even on those rare occasions when they admit to being wrong.  Dealing with a bully can be tough.  When confronted most bullies immediately assume the role of the victim.  They become defensive and often resort to empty threats, like quitting, or calling in a higher authority.  It takes courage to confront a bully and a manager must be prepared for the worst, because many bullies can’t be rehabilitated and must be managed out.

It’s difficult to understand why any manager would tolerate a bully for very long; but I think there may be a couple of reasons.  First, an inexperienced manager may not recognize or know how to address bully behavior when they see it.  Another possible explanation is that the manager wishes to avoid conflict at any cost and will often ask the employee who is being bullied to simply ignore the problem. They may even go as far as to ask the worker to censor themselves so as not to further aggravate the situation; but a manager who is unwilling to confront a bully only validates the bad behavior and undermines their role as team leader.

If you find yourself confronted by a bully, the best advice I can give you is to not play by their rules and to not go it alone. Bullies thrive on confrontation and expect a negative response. They want to see you get angry and frustrated. So do your best not to show them how you’re feeling. In the mean time, do talk with your manager and if necessary your HR rep. Also share your story with other team members in your organization, because the best defense against a bully is to maintain strong, supportive relationships: one for all, and all for one.

4 Responses to “One for all, and all for one”

  1. Meg Bear said

    Ken you might be my exclusive proof that chivalry is not dead, you RULE! I agree we are very blessed to have a team that works well together. I find that so powerful and energizing and I wish that same experience for everyone.

    I have to admit that I find it surprising that bullies can exist in a working environment, it just seems so junior high to me. I am hopeful that your post will give people confidence to not accept that kind of behavior but to use their energies to build strong and powerful teams. I honestly believe that it is in a team that we can do our most powerful work.

  2. Louise Barnfield said

    Hey Ken, you got me thinking about trends in bullying over time. I wondered if there were sufficient statistics to draw meaningful comparisons between the workplace now and schools, say, 20 years ago. Meg also alluded to that connection with the mention of ‘junior high’ mentality.

    Classroom bullying appears to have increased significantly over the years, with discipline issues even leading to bizarre such reactions such handcuffing ‘kindergartners’. So, what if the pattern continues, as individuals grow to maturity?…what will the workplace be like in another 20 years?

    Do the same classroom bullies translate into office bullies? Or does the worm turn…is it perhaps the ones who were most put-upon in the classroom, who then exact revenge on others when they grow up? I use the term ‘grow up’ loosely, as that’s one of the problems with bullies, isn’t it…they never did! You might be interested in the site Workplace Bullying Institute I found it quite illuminating. Their research indicates the former, but for me the jury’s still out.

    Either way, if we can chart the likelihood of this trait, and if companies can therefore pre-screen for it through psychological testing of applicants, how many do?…and why is it that more don’t?

  3. [...] gushed before about how lucky I am and what a great team we have.  As someone who puts a lot of herself into her [...]

  4. [...] experiences in my regular working day. I’m part of a well-balanced team (yes, Ken’s one for all, and all for one team), and although I may feel my individual achievements are not that spectacular on their own, [...]

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