In a recent blog, Becky Celestine presents “9 Signs There’s a Bully in Your Midst.” See http://www.onlinemba.com/blog/9-signs-theres-an-office-bully-in-your-midst/
She points out that 46% of American workers say they have personally contended with workplace bullying in the past year and 13% suffer from it on a weekly basis! Wow! Since we know that bullying reduces productivity, and distracts not just the person being bullied, but also the bystanders, that is a lot of productivity down the drain.
So what do we do about it?
1. First, the staff must generate agreement on what behaviors constitute bullying. Most will agree that verbal and physical belittling would be bullying. What about exclusion, when a group of people systematically fail to include a person in important projects? Is cyberbullying included (using the internet to bully someone)? Where is the line drawn between constructive criticism and belittling? Is bantering the same as belittling? (I think bantering is joking where neither side takes offense, while belittling, the target leaves not feeling good about the interaction.) Is blaming bullying? What are appropriate ways to express frustration?
2. If blaming is inappropriate, what alternatives are there to blaming others? Generally, it is more productive to focus on the future, rather than blame the past. For example, instead of berating someone for a missed deadline, focus on what needs to be changed so the deadline is not missed next time.
3. What needs to happen so that staff feel safe to express their opinion without belittling comments or retribution? Procedural rules against put-downs may help, especially if they are enforced by everyone. When belittling occurs anyone can say, “I thought we agreed not to belittle others.”
4. When a pattern of bullying is observed, what procedure should the target follow to stop it? Ideally the target can discuss their concerns with the bully in private, but this is frequently unrealistic. The bully may be more powerful, and many victims are not sufficiently assertive to stand up to them. Should bystanders step in? When should HR become involved?
5.What are the consequences for bullying? Is this the same for everybody, or will star performers be granted greater leniency?
I hope these questions help to begin your quest to rid your workplace of bullying. I you would like further assistance please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.