Soft and Cuddly... Like Sandpaper
Springboarding from my last post, let's keep talking about bullies. Since half of the workplace is aware of them or targeted by them, it would be a good idea to dissect bullies a little bit.
This is a topic that makes people uncomfortable, because it is difficult to monitor and fix. Many employers would rather turn a blind eye to the problem. However, what that approach causes is absenteeism and turnover. Last week, Personnel Today's blog nailed the issue:
"You are never going to be able to totally eradicate bullying, but if employers can admit that bullying does go on, then we are going to congratulate them for coming forward - it's not about blaming anyone. We're not going to throw rocks at you, but it makes absoslute sense for employers to understand what is deemed acceptable behaviour in the workplace and what is not."
So, what is deemed acceptable behavior? How do we identify the activities that constitute bullying? According to Laurie Pawlik-Keinlen at Suite 101, we define bullying as "verbal abuse, threatening or humiliating behavior, or work sabotage.... Bullying at work is mostly psychological bullying, and includes excluding coworkers from lunches or after-hours get-togethers and spreading lies or gossip." There is a significant intimidation factor, and perception is the key political game ball. While all bullying plays off of power, workplace bullying emphasizes the perception of power, and the bully over-emphasizes these perceptions through innuendo or direct intimidation. The bully also plays off of divide-and-conquer. The bully strives to go after the weakest of the herd, and successfully singles out potential targets.
For those who have ever been the targets of bullies, my empathy to you. My first boss out of college was a bully. I hated going to work, but then I learned how to begin documenting the events. When I presented the fact that I had been documenting to management (who had, up until that point, sided with the bully), I was suddenly moved to a different supervisor and my workplace experience improved tremendously. For years following, though, I experienced residual stress every time a manager wanted to have any kind of one-on-one communication with me. I had let it go on far too long.
Laurie's article also includes some quick tips for dealing with bullies:
Nobody needs to remain a target (note, I do not use the word "victim") of a bully. Next post, we'll cover some of the employment environment issues.
Image from Despair.com