|Backing Down The Bully In Your World
The “B” Word That Doesn’t Go Away
"As leaders, it's important to make it clear that all forms of disrespect, dishonesty, and lack of teamwork are not permitted at work." Kerry Patterson
What is Workplace Bullying?
Bullying is usually seen as acts or verbal comments that could ‘mentally’ hurt or isolate a person in the workplace. Sometimes, bullying can involve negative physical contact as well. Bullying usually involves repeated incidents or a pattern of behavior that is intended to intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate a particular person or group of people. It has also been described as the assertion of power through aggression.
What are Examples of Bullying?
While bullying is a form of aggression, the actions can be both obvious and subtle. It is important to note that the following is not a checklist, nor does it mention all forms of bullying. This list is included as a way of showing some of the ways bullying may happen in a workplace. Also remember that bullying is usually considered to be a pattern of behavior where one or more incidents will help show that bullying is taking place.
- Spreading malicious rumors, gossip, or innuendo that is not true
- Excluding or isolating someone socially
- Intimidating a person
- Undermining or deliberately impeding a person’s work
- Physically abusing or threatening abuse
- Removing areas of responsibilities without cause
- Constantly changing work guidelines
- Establishing impossible deadlines that will set up the individual to fail
- Withholding necessary information or purposefully giving the wrong information
- Making jokes that are ‘obviously offensive’ by spoken word or e-mail
- Intruding on a person’s privacy by pestering, spying or stalking
- Assigning unreasonable duties or workload which are unfavorable to one person (in a way that creates unnecessary pressure)
- Under work; creating a feeling of uselessness
- Yelling or using profanity
- Criticizing a person persistently or constantly
- Belittling a person’s opinions
- Unwarranted (or undeserved) punishment
- Blocking applications for training, leave or promotion
- Tampering with a person’s personal belongings or work equipment.
It is sometimes hard to know if bullying is happening at the workplace. Many studies acknowledge that there is a “fine line” between strong management and bullying. Comments that are objective and are intended to provide constructive feedback are not usually considered bullying, but rather are intended to assist the employee with their work.
If you are not sure an action or statement could be considered bullying, you can use the “reasonable person” test. Would most people consider the action unacceptable?
How Can Bullying Affect an Individual?
People who are the targets of bullying may experience a range of effects. These reactions include:
- Feelings of frustration and/or helplessness
- Increased sense of vulnerability
- Loss of confidence
- Physical symptoms such as:
- Inability to sleep
- Loss of appetite
- Psychosomatic symptoms such as:
- Panic or anxiety, especially about going to work
- Family tension and stress
- Inability to concentrate
- Low morale and productivity
How Can Bullying Affect the Workplace?
Bullying affects the overall “health” of an organization. An “unhealthy” workplace can have many effects. In general these include:
- Increased absenteeism
- Increased turnover
- Increased stress
- Increased costs for employee assistance programs (EAPs), recruitment, etc.
- Increased risk for accidents / incidents
- Decreased productivity and motivation
- Decreased morale
- Reduced corporate image and customer confidence
- Poorer customer service
What Can an Employer Do?
The most important component of any workplace prevention program is management commitment. Management commitment is best communicated in a written policy. Since bullying is a form of violence in the workplace, employers may wish to write a comprehensive policy that covers a range of incidents (from bullying and harassment to physical violence).
Final Thoughts: I believe that managers and supervisors are morally responsible for ensuring that employees are not bullied in the workplace, but I also think that it makes good business sense.
I would advise managers and supervisors to start by examining their own behavior; soliciting feedback from trusted colleagues might be part of the process; to make sure they are not engaging in any bullying of their own, however inadvertent. I would also suggest that they let employees know that bullying, like workplace violence and threats, will not be tolerated, and tell employees who feel they are being bullied to report it to management immediately.
In the November 10, 2009 Globe And Mail article "Any Threat Is A Serious Threat"
Ms. Chris Hinkle, president of Firm Foundation, a Barrie Ont based agency that specializes in workplace violence prevention makes this point. "While employees and managers may feel their hands are tied or their safety may be at risk if they intervene, speaking up can block future incidents. One thing we really stress is standing up for yourself when it first happens. The earlier you address it, the less people it affects and the less of an issue it is to resolve."
Stop the bully. Stop the intellectual bully who muscles forward their opinion and agenda with their biting brilliance. Stop the spiritual bully who shoots a unending volley of scripture darts. Stop the overbearing extrovert bully who never give up or shuts up. Stop the relational bully who takes advantage of your commitment to making the relationship work. Stop the positional bully who has just enough title and status to make your life perfectly miserable. Stop the bully. Other will thank you for doing it. You'll thank yourself for doing it.
ACTION AND TRACTION COACHING QUESTIONS
You are a worthy, honorable value adding person in your world and so are others so...