BULLYING IN THE WORKPLACE
“If you’re horrible to me, I’m going to write a song about it, and you won’t like it. That’s how I operate.”
Taylor Swift –“Why You Got To Be So Mean?”
You probably aren’t a songwriter or a singer but I’ll bet you can identify with being in the position of being bullied Schools are usually the site most people associate with bullying, but the workplace sadly can also be a fertile environment for bullying. I suppose those school yard bullies have to go somewhere when they grow up.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that 25% of participating companies reported some degree of bullying had occurred in the preceding year. Bullying occurs at every level, can be hard to identify and even harder to manage. Unnoticed it can have devastating consequences resulting in errors, poor client satisfaction, increased costs and high turnover rates (crisisprevention.com) feeding into the War on Talent I blogged on recently. Companies should be proactive in addressing this issue and realize that is a type of civil rights violation. The Workplace Bullying Institute (yes, there is such a place) notes that during good times abused workers tend to leave positions in which they feel bullied but in a down economy, many feel that they have to stay because their options are limited. (Libertymutual.com/responsibility)
Twelve states currently have 17 active bills which target an “abusive work environment and abusive conduct” in the workplace Louisiana currently does not have such a bill but the initiative is there for all states to join in. These Healthy Workplace Bills give four classes of abusive conduct that are actionable: “1.verbal abuse, 2.conduct that is threatening, intimidating or humiliating, 3. work interference, 4. exploitation of known vulnerability, physical or psychological.”
**Ronald Riggio in February 2010 “Psychology Today” identifies some typical, unacceptable workplace behaviors that are types of bullying: Threats such as docking an employees pay; The Silent Treatment – stopping talking when the victim enters the room or lowering voices and giggling; Rumors –spreading information to tarnish someone’s reputation; Sabotaging work –altering the victim’s work to make it unacceptable. Riggio recommends visiting the site kickbully.com to identify causes and consequences and ways to fight back.
Marilyn Astin Tarlton Partner/Catalyst at Attorney at Work gives some advice on confronting a bully in the work place which can be difficult since the bully is often in a position of power. Some dos and don’ts : Do keep a record /journal of things said or done that you consider to be bullying, choose a time when you can be unemotional and meet face to face. And explain what you want to change. It is less threatening to use “I” language such as “I would appreciate it if you would ____, or I feel ___________ when you ___________. Do be aggressive. Call the bully out but stay calm
Don’t expect colleagues to support you. It would be great to have others express their dissatisfaction but not everyone is prepared to face the possible consequences. Don’t back down and don’t be surprised if a confrontation does not go smoothly and produce immediate and tidy results.
And finally, DO be prepared for consequences that may force you to find another job.
Tom Field in Success Unlimited makes some good points to ponder.
“IT IS THE LACK OF KNOWLEDGE OF, OR THE UNWILLINGNESS TO RECOGNIZE OR THE DELIBERATE DENIAL OF THE EXISTENCE OF THE SERIAL BULLY WHICH IS THE MOST COMMON REASON FOR AN UNSATISFACTORY OUTCOME FOR BOTH EMPLOYEE AND EMPLOYERS.
“BULLIES THRIVE WHEREVER AUTHORITY IS WEAK.”