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What To Do When You Discover There’s An Office Bully

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Office bullying is part of toxic behaviour at work. Toxicity is everywhere. It can be inescapable in the office. Especially when it’s from the top down. Bullying is as unnecessary as it is unpleasant. When you see or hear bullying or intimidation in your office, what should you do about it? The classic advice to stop a bully is ‘stand up to them’. Try it and the bully may just back down. Bullying can be temporary. Then the work place will return to normal. If standing up for yourself doesn’t work, then you will have to find other strategies that do.


Why do people bully others at work

There are intrinsic and extrinsic reasons for people who become bullies. Some people are just born bad. Others have changing circumstances that turn them in to bullies. Bullying can be a phase in someone’s life caused by incidents, personal unhappiness or external pressures that they feel unable to control. Bullying often comes from an imbalance of power and can take the form of verbal, physical and even cyber bullying.


Prevention not cure

Preventing bullying in the workplace is key to creating a positive company culture. Implementing a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for bullying is one strategy. If you bully someone, you are out. It will help you lead your company, develop your staff and ultimately help your business.

How to stop bullying before it starts? Don’t hire bullies. People can change at any stage in their lives. Some people can turn in to bullies. Having a ‘No Bullying’ policy in your corporate handbook is a good start. Laying down the law from day one for a new employee helps them understand how bullies will be dealt with and where to get help if they feel they are being bullied.


Awareness of bullying

You may not be aware of on-going bullying in your SME. Some of your staff may just sit and suffer in silence. Others may leave. It may be too late to stop silent bullying if you are not vigilant. You may face rapidly deteriorating morale and even a sudden mass walk out. Identifying bullying starts with a verbal, or non-verbal, warning sign. It may be a comment, or a persistent flurry of comments, or physical or psychological intimidation. A tip off from a concerned colleague may be by email, phone or private conversation. Take the initiative to investigate and verify before taking action to resolve the situation. If you report bullying to you manager and he or she takes no action, then leave. The bully will soon ruin the whole organisation.


Strategies to stop bullying

If you become aware that bullying is going on in your workplace then stop it, fast. Allowing bullying to continue for lengthy periods of time can destroy your business and ultimately your reputation. Effective strategies to stop bullying include:

  1. Having a word in private with the bully. If this doesn’t work and they are a key employee then take their power away. Move them to a different position. If they don’t change then use your company policies to get rid of them.
  2. If a powerful person at work becomes a bully then strategize how to minimize their power. If they feel threatened and leave then your job is done. If they stay, then less power may mitigate the bullying.
  3. Encourage the person in question to seek internal mentoring or external counseling. Send them on a two week leave of absence. When, or if, they return to work reassess the situation with them. Set new goals on behaviour and monitor them.
  4. If bullying turns in to behaviour that crosses the line professionally, then build a written file of events that take place. Issue a warning letter or a caution and if the behaviour persists then move to dismissal with evidence to back this up.

Bullying is an age old story. It is unlikely to go away. It should be prevented or at worst mitigated. Good leadership involves dealing effectively with workplace bullying and creating a positive culture where your business can flourish.

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