Workplace bullying is a serious problem, and its damaging effects spread in three directions: They diminish the confidence of those on the receiving end of the bullying, they damage the bully by perpetuating weak and destructive behavior patterns that he or she may not recognize, and they undermine companies by reducing an organization's productivity, morale, and reputation.
Bullying happens in a variety of forms, from outright verbal abuse, to abuse of power (including unreasonable requests), to subtle forms of back stabbing and sabotage. But when bullying takes place, it doesn't have to take over. Fight back with these simple moves.
Stand Up for Others
Steve (After watching Sally berate and criticize her assistant): "What happened?"
Sally: "Oh, she's just a mess. I asked for that report yesterday and she still hasn't completed it. I should never have hired her. She's useless."
Steve: "That's not a great way to deal with the problem. I know it's not my business, but that didn't sound very constructive. It's better to criticize in private. If I were in your shoes, I would apologize."
Bullies sometimes don't recognize what they're doing until someone points out their poor behavior and offers them alternatives. When you have an opportunity to step in, do so. Don't dismiss a situation or avoid getting involved just because you're afraid of conflict.
Mock & Ignore All Forms of "Bully Culture"
Joe: "Why are we having a group meeting just to come up with a tactful way of firing this vendor? What are we worried about? Hurting their feeeelings?"
Rachel: (With calm, direct eye contact) "Yes, of course. That's a real thing and that's how we do business here. Okay, who has some ideas?"
Feelings are real (they run the world), and all people deserve a base level of human respect no matter who they are. Live your own life according to this standard, and expect the same from others…at a minimum.
Just Say No
Department boss to a mid-level manager: "When you conduct your employee evaluations this cycle, tell your team that they're going to need to produce twice as much this quarter for the same pay, and if they can't reach these impossible metrics, we'll have no problem letting them go."
Mid-level manager: "No, I'm not going to say that. Let's find another method that we can use to reach the same goals."
You are the one who holds responsibility for your own behavior. Just because you've been given orders to bully, underpay, belittle, sabotage, demoralize, or manipulate someone else doesn't mean you have to do it. "I have no choice" is not an excuse. You always have a choice.
Take Anti-Bullying Initiatives Seriously
Rob: "Hey, are you going to this ant-bullying seminar in the conference room?"
Susan: "No. It's not mandatory and I have more important things to do."
Rob: "I wish I could get out of it too. These things are so dumb."
Even if nobody is bullying you and you're 99 percent sure you haven't done anything to bully someone else, this is a real issue that can have a serious impact on the quality and productivity of your workplace (aka, the company that supplies your paycheck). And if you think you know everything you need to know about the topic because you read an internet article, think again. Take the subject seriously and do what you can to change your culture, your workplace, and your own behavior for the better.
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If your company can't or won't address a systemic bullying problem that's undermining the organization (not to mention your own quality of life), then it may be time to say goodbye. Visit My Perfect Resume for tools that can help you find a better position somewhere else.