The time for identifying workplace bullies is now. Over the last few years, bullying in our schools has received the attention it deserves; children have been bullied to the point of taking their lives. Something needed to be done. Initiatives to identify, educate, and reform bullies in our schools have made an impact.

But bullying isn’t only in our schools or among our children—it’s in the workplace. Bullying at the office negatively impacts the workplace. It can make an employee dread coming to work, and for some—it’s a living hell. This adversely affects production and performance in the entire organization.

Identifying Workplace Bullies

If Someone’s Being Bullied, Why Don’t They Just Quit?

That is an option for the bullied employee; however, it’s not always that simple. The employee may have tenure, benefits, and income that is difficult to replace. More importantly, from the organization’s point of view, if a bullied employee leaves, you lose a valuable teammate, and the bully most likely will find another victim.

Recognizing Bullies

  • Throwing Temper Tantrums – Even as adults, we have the same reptilian brain we had at two years old. Unchecked by our thinking brain, it can touch off fits of anger directed at co-workers, the company, or a customer.
  • Vicious Gossiping –  Unfounded malicious talk about another’s work, activities, or character.
  • Destructive Insulting – Calling teammates ignorant, lazy, or alluding that they receive special privileges.
  • Not working with others – A bully may refuse to work with someone they’re bullying.
  • Out of sight, out of mind – Unobserved, a bully may treat targets with disrespect and disdain while attempting to be the ideal teammate when observed.

What If You’re the Target?

If you’re the target, the first thing you must understand is you’re not the problem. If a teammate or superior is demonstrating any of the five behaviors listed above towards you. It’s their weakness, not yours.

The worst thing any target can do is attempt to change to meet the bully’s demands. Although there is only one absolute remedy, leaving the position, other strategies may end the bullying.

  • Don’t wait – Don’t sit back expecting the bully to change, or worse yet, don’t try to change to appease the bully.
  • Call it what it is – Don’t sugarcoat it. If it’s harassment or bullying, name it. Naming it shouldn’t be acrimonious. It should be a statement of fact.
  • Talk to the bully – Let them know their behavior is unacceptable, and you will not tolerate such treatment.
  • Go to HR – Approach HR with facts. Explain, in business terms, how the bully is affecting performance, production, and retention. Leave emotion out of this conversation. Be a businessperson.
  • Quit – I know it may not be easy, but if there is no other alternative and it’s to the point that work has become miserable—life is too short.

What if You’re the Bully?

If you recognize yourself in the bullying behaviors listed above, seek help and advice. Acknowledging that you’re exhibiting these behaviors is one thing—effectively changing those behaviors is another.

  • Seek council – The root cause of this behavior may not be what you think. You can often find counseling through local agencies and churches at little or no cost.
  • Offer an apology – This may be more difficult than you think. Victims of a bully may be relieved when they’re no longer targeted, but they may not be quick to forgive.
  • Recognize your actions – To eliminate bullying, you first must track when, where, and with whom it happens. Recognizing triggers is the first step to change.

 What if You’re the Company?

Your organization experiences bullying at some level. Whether it’s destructive gossip, insulting behavior, or anger directed at employees—it’s there. You may not eliminate bullying, but you can educate your staff about avoiding and dealing with it.

  • Go public – Make it known the company will not tolerate bullying. State the consequences.
  • Train your management team – Teach them how to recognize bullying and what to do.
  • Offer counseling – Offer counseling to bullies and victims.

Yes, the time for identifying workplace bullies is now. Bullying in the workplace is destructive and costly. The hostile environment created by bullying reduces production, lowers performance, and causes employee turnover. The cost of bullying in the workplace is actual and can be counted in dollars, pain, and lost opportunities. What has been done to reduce bullying in your workplace?

How Can I Help You?

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

Does your business have a management training plan? Many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. Check it out.

Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash