How Strong Leaders Address Workplace Bullying
Workplace Bullying, Defined
Workplace Bullying in Action
Workplace bullying may take on many forms. Common behaviors and situations to look out for include:
- A victim regularly staying at work past quitting time or appearing to have much more work to do than other employees.
- A victim regularly calling in sick even though they seem perfectly healthy when they are at work.
- A victim appearing sad, depressed, anxious, or irritated on a consistent basis.
- A victim being consistently criticized for the poor work performance of a team.
Workplace bullies have a desire to control the victim’s work life. This often means altering the information they receive and equipment they have access to.
For example, a bullying supervisor may regularly fail to tell an employee about important meetings or policy changes. This makes the victim appear to always be late, lazy, defiant, or incompetent. This forced poor performance creates more ammunition for the bully to threaten to get the victim fired or further criticize or reprimand them.
When workplace bullies are supervisors, they may use the threat of documented reprimand, cutting hours, or even dismissal to try to force the victim into doing unreasonable amounts of work, or to take the blame for something that was the supervisor’s fault.
When workplace bullies are colleagues, they often have been with the company longer and will try to use their popularity with supervisors and co-workers to intimidate the victim. For example, they may threaten to tell lies or spread embarrassing information about the victim so that they feel isolated or miss out on promotions.
Confronting a Bully
After the verbal request, any further incidences of abuse of the victim should be documented. The bully should clearly understand that continued acts of bullying will result in termination. If they believe continued abuse will be tolerated, they may just try to hide it better as opposed to not doing it at all.
Supporting a Victim
Let them know that you support them and that they don’t have to take that kind of abuse and disrespect from anyone. Check in with them at least once a week for the first month to learn about any further problems that you may not have witnessed or heard about.
Getting them in touch with resources (training, literature, counseling, etc.) to help them cope with the bullying experience by processing their feelings, or learning to become more assertive, can be a huge benefit in helping them to feel empowered and safe in their working environment.
Workplace bullying can develop at any organization at any time. Fortunately, by using this information, you can help to eliminate it once you recognize it and make sure your staff is safe as well as productive and profitable.