Are you a workplace bully? Have you ever been bullied at work?

Bullying can have a profound effect on you whether in the workplace or personally. Focusing on the workplace, I have worked alongside bullies, been bullied myself and  found a way to cut through what they are trying to achieve (which is generally not very much at all). What led me to write about this subject came from a candidate interviewed the other day that was wanting to leave their current role due to a bullying work environment. If you have been bullied before, you could understand why.

What needs to be distinguished is whether you are actually being bullied or not. Sometimes you may just not fit a work culture that enjoys having a bit of fun at each other’s expense or you may feel victimised by a manager that is micro-managing you due to your lack of performance in the role. It’s a matter of stepping back and assessing what is happening and removing your emotion at the time. Speaking with others that have been bullied and from my own experiences, we found that bullies generally had a number of traits:

  • They presented as strong characters in the workplace however often had a weak link to their life outside of work
  • Career bullies (you know the ones) are experts at bullying a person covertly and make it very hard to prove that they actually were doing it
  • The best ones usually have a number of other staff that “report back to” or encourage them
  • They have a “set of unwritten rules” that others in the team must follow – step outside that and you will soon know what they are
  • They have nothing of substance to contribute at team meetings (hmmm… fancy that!!!)
  • They love the terms “just kidding” or “just having a joke” or “don’t be so serious” to cover for what they are doing
  • The colleagues that they generally attract to their group are victims themselves of this person’s bullying and are generally relieved that the “heat” is off them now, would rather not “rock the boat” and just let it happen
So… how do you tackle it? That’s the big question! The first thing is to not let this person (and possibly their group) prevent you from excelling in what could be a really good role or career opportunity. An excellent role model for this is my wife who proved that you can beat them. She entered a workplace for a career opportunity in a senior role only to find that almost 25% of the staff (in a 56 staff workplace) were bullying other staff and being covert, the owner was unaware of this. She stood up to the main aggressor only to be harassed twice as hard and it certainly took its toll over a 12 month period as she tried to cut through. She had thoughts of just throwing in the towel, a tear was shed here and there and I know that she was nervous going into work some days – it really hit her confidence hard. Moving into a management role and gaining the support of the owner by having a record of bullying occurrences, they managed and removed every single person that was responsible for bullying in their workplace. They now have a very strict policy on bullying so that it does not rear its ugly head again. What happened to this business? It is now very successful, bucking the current trends in their industry and it has a team that works very well together and encourages growth.
Work through bullying, make people aware of it happening and talk to your supervisor or manager as it is their legal responsibility to address it. As a manager or business owner it is your responsibility to take action if this is occurring and to have policies in place to deter people. You have to remember that no-one knows about it until you bring it to everyone’s attention and act on it.
The one or two people that are bullying others in your workplace could cost you excellent staff that just needed the chance to shine, as well as a lot of lost sales as they were deliberately held back from performing.
Remove bullies from your workplace and reap the rewards!
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