Mentoring – Surviving Corrosive Organisations


Photo credit – Stephen Gunn

Are you experiencing tension at work with an individual or colleague?

This can be a very uncomfortable time for all concerned. Some possibilities are:

  • You know the cause and feel unsure how to address it
  • You feel uncomfortable but don’t know what the issue is
  • You see a colleague being mistreated and don’t know what to do

When you know the cause, and if you have created the problem, own up and ask how you can make amends.

Don’t be defensive, simply share what you understand and seek feedback on how to avoid similar situations in the future. People respect that this is not easy, and reasonable people are willing to accept an apology and move on. They may even undertake to coach you, as you are seen to take responsibility for your role in the matter.

If you feel that you are the object of the tension, seek out someone you can trust for advice and mentoring. Don’t complain, simply seek to understand if there is something you have done, and be open to feedback. Do not be defensive; make it clear you are keen to clarify misunderstandings. Don’t let things drag on. Address the matter as soon as possible and be willing to say sorry if you have played a part in this or, to graciously accept an apology.

Observing corrosive behaviour towards any individual and ignoring it is unacceptable to most fair-minded people. This reminds me of the saying “bad things happen when good people do nothing”, or of a similar one, “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept”.

You could have a quiet word with the individuals whose behaviour is unacceptable. Most people do not like being observed as bullies. In the event that this is not possible you might have a quiet word with a senior colleague on how you should handle this situation. You might ask the recipient of this bullying how they are , and give them an opportunity to discuss in confidence how they are or are not coping.

Most organisations have a grievance procedure and experienced HR colleagues should be able to support the process.

We spend most of our waking hours at work and it is important to our well-being and productivity that we are in a stable environment that allows us to make our contribution without fear or favour.


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