Crystal Spraggins, SPHR
In the workplace, it’s good to be friendly to everyone. Life is better that way.
But if you’re in management, the one person who deserves more than “friendly” is your resident bully.
Does that surprise you? I thought it might.
See, your bully needs love, not friendship. And by “love” I mean tough love. The kind with immovable boundaries. The kind with real consequences. The kind that demands a change or at the very least protects the innocent.
Yeah, your bully needs that kind of love.
What is workplace bullying?
Workplace bullying is persistent, aggressive mistreatment against a coworker, subordinate, or even a boss.
Bullying is about control, pure and simple. Controlling someone makes a bully feel powerful, at least temporarily.
Bullying includes verbal threats, intimidation, name calling, relentless and unwarranted criticism, email “mobbing” (i.e., several parties sending similar nasty messages to the same target within a compressed period), and deliberate reputation bashing. If the target doesn’t do what the bully wants, the bully’s goal becomes to make the target’s life a living you-know-what until the target capitulates or even leaves the organization.
A negative trend
According to a recent article in USA Today, workplace bullying is on the rise, and it’s no wonder. Study after study shows management tends to either ignore the problem or make it worse.
This is bad.
Workplace bullying hurts your business and your employees. One commonly quoted statistic is that workplace bullying costs organizations nearly $250 million annually in sick days, employee healthcare costs, turnover, accidents related to stress-induced fatigue, and litigation, for starters.
And when you “friend” the bully, turning a blind eye to her bad behavior or worse, actually encouraging her harmful aggression by providing good performance evaluations and job promotions, you’re just asking for more of the same.
What’s a better plan?
Last week (October 20th-26th) was Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week. You may have missed the celebration, but you don’t have to miss the point—there are at least 250 million reasons to want to see incidents of workplace bullying reduced. Here then, are some steps you can take to show some much-needed love to your workplace bully.
One last thought. The workplace bully is no friend to your organization. She cares nothing for you, your business, or your employees. She may pretend to, but she doesn’t. If she did, she wouldn’t be slowly killing the culture of your company while sucking the life out of your employees and calling it good.
- Become a believer. Workplace bullying is not a personality clash, a difference in opinion, or a “communication” or “leadership” style. It’s aggression run amok. It’s real, and it’s dangerous.
- Get the word out. Create an anti-workplace bullying policy and distribute it to your employees. Make it clear that you intend to enforce it.
- Invest in training. It’s sad but true. Overall, management (including human resources management) is woefully inadequate when it comes to stomping out workplace bullying. Part of the reason is that most folks haven’t been trained to recognize bullying when they see it, which includes being alert to the manipulative wiles of the bully once confronted. However, good and credible information about this phenomenon is everywhere. For starters, check out this video on YouTube. It’s awesome.
- Take no prisoners. If you want the bullying behavior out of your business, you have to let the bullies know that you mean business. This means no more ignoring the problem, no more making allowances, and no more promotions, please. Contrary to the rumors, it’s entirely possible to inspire confidence and tons of productivity from an employee without resorting to threats, screaming, humiliation, or sarcasm.
- Repeat all of the above until the bully cries “Uncle” (or until you’ve had enough and are ready to show the bully the door).
Even so, you can be the better person and show her some love.
Tough love. The best kind for the workplace bully.