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The Bully and the Brand
Lest we think that the subject of bullying is monopolised by schoolchildren, the workplace doesn’t fail to deliver its share of bullies, says Kamal Dimachkie
October 17, 2012 11:41 by kippreport
By Kamal Dimachkie
I hate bullies. Not only do they push you around, they take away your dignity.
From a young age we’ve known about bullies. For the less lucky, their first encounter possibly happened at school, where abusive kids push others around for some sort of gratification. They practice a combination of psychological and physical intimidation that forces the less strong to succumb; they are either pushed onto a course of continuously escaping, or are forced to stand up for themselves. For those of us who have been lucky enough not to experience it firsthand, Hollywood gives us a glimpse every once in a while, so this is not really an alien topic.
And lest we think that the subject of bullying is monopolized by schoolchildren, the workplace doesn’t fail to deliver its share of bullies. Some co-workers consciously target their selected whipping boys; clients identify their favourites and single out one or more for this wonderful form of treatment.
Tim Field, a prominent British anti-bullying activist with his main focus on workplace bullying, says, “Most organisations have a serial bully. It never ceases to amaze me how one person’s divisive, disordered, dysfunctional behavior can permeate the entire organization like a cancer.” He adds to this with: “Lack of knowledge of, or unwillingness to recognize, or outright denial of the existence of the serial bully is the most common reason for an unsatisfactory outcome of a bullying case for both the employee and the employer.”
Fascinating as this is, I am more interested in the exploration of bullies in the context of brand management and building. While the damage in the earlier examples tends to be restricted to individuals or smaller groups, in this case the bully can be damaging to a lot more than a person’s career, or perhaps even a family’s source of livelihood. They can wreak the havoc of a mass murderer on one or more organisations when they imprint their behavior on a brand and make it a victim of their whims.
Some of the fundamentals that have stuck with me over the past 30 years confirm that building brands primarily requires humility. No brand can be founded on prejudices. Those brand managers who are self-opinionated and display arrogance, a superior sense of entitlement and invulnerability are actually displaying contempt of people and consumers alike. They are therefore bound to fail the brands they are entrusted with and those who work with them.
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