Employees as a Commodity
The problem is simple: When people are seen as objects of utility in a formula for profitability, the inherent importance of their individualism, their feelings, and emotions is subordinated to their asset value. This objectification is clearly exemplified in the ongoing problem of management bullying and abuse that still exists in organizations today.
Most leaders, managers, and supervisors are not provided specific feedback about interpersonal behavior with their subordinates and peers. Mandating instructions (without considering employee input), sarcasm, rhetoric, emotional behavior - shouting, loudness, tirades - talking over others, poor listening skills, intimidating body language and dialog - the list of things one can do to alienate employees is long.
There is nothing wrong with pay, promotions, bonuses, and recognition that is contingent (dependent) on performance. But, when those organizational tactics are not accompanied by sensitive and respectful management practices, then it uncovers an ethical blind spot in the organization. It indicates that the employee is important in the formula for financial success but there are no guiding principles of sensitivity and respect required in a manager's interpersonal dealing with employees.
"People Value" and "Performance Value"
Although core principles of behavioral psychology have gradually seeped into the principle of performance, unfortunately it has not advanced the moral imperative that appeared over 4,000 years ago: "Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself." That simple maxim represents the best that humanism and moral awareness can contribute.
Yet the imperative that each individual must be treated with dignity and respect (People Value) is not represented in the core principles of most organizations. And, in those organizations where it is represented, only a fraction of those hold their manages accountable for performing in accord with the principles.
The Bullying Behavior of Managers
In spite of the many survey tools utilized by organizations to evaluate employee satisfaction and supervisory-employee relations, employee bullying still exists in epidemic proportions. It contributes to poor performance and turnover and is listed in most surveys as one of the top 2 or 3 reasons people change jobs.
The reason bullying is still wide spread in business and industry is because "positivity" in regards to employees was limited to its effects as a tool for performance gains instead of fulfilling its potential as a core organizational value. When an organization accepts and promotes the value of people as a corporate value they begin to experience the many positive performance rewards associated with this commitment.
Research clearly reveals the negative effects of bullying interpersonal behavior; it increases employee emotionalism and distractibility (creating a safety hazard), reduces motivation to excel, increases error rates, job dissatisfaction, and severely limits discretionary effort and the stress it create is a health threat to employees.
If you Google "treating employees with respect and dignity," you are deluged by the number of scholarly citations and anecdotal articles that support its practice. Poor supervisory relations is indicated as the #1 dissatisfier among employees.
Bullying by Executives
Nowhere is abusive and intimidating behavior more apparent than in the top echelons of business and industry. If one wants to reach the higher levels of management, one needs to be prepared to take some punishment.
Executives are notorious for pitching tantrums, screaming, sarcasm, and name calling to list a few. Oddly this form of intimidation seems to get results - particularly among salaried, career employees. This behavior only works in the near-term when used with front line employees; they are capable of expressing their ire using passive tactics that are disruptive to performance.
The root cause of dysfunctional supervisory interpersonal behavior can be traced back to the behavior patterns of senior leaders. Senior executive can elicit high levels of fear from subordinates; fear cascades down through the management ranks quickly. Fear becomes an incubator for stress and anger.
As a society, we have many examples of how bullying creates fear in schools when in turn creates outbursts of anger that are lethal. A supervisor that is fearful of losing his job or being berated by his boss is going to perceive employee errors or performance issues as threats - and deal with them harshly. In this fashion, the chain of bullying makes its way down the hierarchy of management.