Recently there has been an awakening in the community to look at bullying. Most of the attention about this behavior has been directed at children in schools and colleges. Hazing, playground violence, social media intimidation and other instances of bullying are no longer being tolerated. The attention that we are giving this is a good thing.
However, we do not seem to be looking at workplace bullying. Just because a bully grows up does not mean that they lose this destructive behavior. In some cases bullies can work their way up to senior management positions. This can cause a company a lot of time and money. From employee morale to employee turnover, having a bully on your team is a no win situation for anyone.
How to Spot Bullies
A bully can be on the sales floor or in the cubicle next to you. As a team member that you work with on a day to day basis there are certain signs that you can look for to spot workplace bullying such as:
- Eye rolling when others are speaking
- Belittling comments at staff meetings
- Gossiping about coworkers
- “Forgetting” to invite people to staff parties
As far as managers who are being bullies watch for these indicators:
- Assigning impossible tasks
- Stripping people of critical duties
- Dismissing people that suffer from stress as weak
Workplace bullying can build to challenging heights due to mob mentality. Bullies are often out for attention, whether they are three or forty-three. Signs that your staff may have a bully include many people calling out sick, high turnover, uneven staff performance and breakdown in communication flow. Workplace bullying affects staff member emotional states, physical states and honesty.
How to Report Workplace Bullying
The new form of workplace bullying is not the same as harassment and therefore not illegal. Sexual harassment, racial harassment, disability harassment and gender orientation harassment are all things we are used to dealing with. With workplace bullying you need to be able to show signs of harassment that are more subtle.
If you’re being bullied there are steps that you should take
- Keep a detailed record of all instances of workplace bullying
- Contact your supervisor and HR manager
- Get witnesses of the bullying
- Know that you are not to blame for another person’s actions
As a supervisor or HR manager all cases of harassment should be looked into. You do not want to lose a top employee because of a bully. In the long run, no matter how good the performance of the bully is, they are not good for business.
What to Do With Workplace Bullying
When you find that you have red flags of workplace bullying you should look into them with a serious eye. You do not want your business to suffer. Proper communication should be taken to delve into the issue. Sit down with the staff member that has the issue. When they bring a record of the bullying to you see if you can put yourself into similar situations and observe the behavior.
For example: if it has been recorded that a bully is always condescending during presentations, be present in the next few presentations. Watch for this behavior. If it is happening then you must deal with it immediately. Watch for a bully in front of clients. If you see the condescending nature arise customers will see it too. You do not want your great product to get soiled from a bad attitude.
When confronting a bully there are several stages of intervention:
- The informal cup of coffee sit down
- A formal conversation to discuss patterns of behavior
- A formal action plan to change behavior
- Disciplinary action up to and including termination
If you do not want to lose this person from the company then you can try to transfer them. If the behavior continues they are not the right fit for your company. Give them the benefit of the doubt. However, if they are making great numbers due to intimidation, is that what you want your business to be about?
Preventing Workplace Bullying
While there is no sure fire way to stop a bully from coming into your company there are ways to spot workplace bullying beforehand. As an HR manager you should ask the following questions of the bully’s references:
- Was there high turnover when so and so worked there?
- How did so and so do on group projects?
- Was there disciplinary action taken against the bully?
- Were there ever any instances of aggression?
- Did so and so stay inside project guidelines?