Workplace bullies create all kinds of problems in the workplace. They put a damper on morale and take all the fun out of work. They can even make you sick from the repeated stress. Retention rates sink when you have a bully on the job because employees give up and quit rather than put up with the obnoxious and damaging behavior. You have the right and the obligation to minimize the fall-out from the bullying and maybe even put a stop to it altogether.
Create a workplace bullying policy and get it approved by management. Include all forms of potential bullying and set up a process for the inappropriate behavior to be reported confidentially. Develop procedures for investigating the allegations and pass out the policy to all employees, letting everyone know that the consequences of bullying could include termination.
Hold training sessions about bullying the same way businesses have been doing for years about sexual harassment in the workplace. Educate your bosses and your coworkers about what bullying looks like, the damage it can do and how to use the system for reporting abuse. Let everyone know during the meeting that bullying won’t be tolerated at your workplace.
Talk directly to the bully. She may not even realize how people perceive her behavior, which may in fact just come naturally to her as part of her general character. Some people don’t realize how hurtful their remarks can be, or they think everyone gets and appreciates their jokes. Keep a written log of the conversation and the reaction you received in case you need to follow up with a report or further confrontations.
Start a journal of the instances when you see bulling take place or are a victim of the controlling behavior. Note the date and time, as well as the circumstances of the act. If and when you end up reporting the abuse, you need to have documentation to support your claims. Ask your fellow coworkers to also make reports to add credibility to your allegations.
- Develop responses to take the wind out of the bully’s repertoire. Stay calm and keep emotion out of your words and deflect the attack. Responses such as, “Maybe you’re right, let’s talk about it sometime,” or, “I’m late for a meeting and don’t have time to talk to you now,” or, “I don’t agree with your assessment, maybe we should ask the boss,” can sometimes stop a bully in her tracks.
- Bullying takes many forms, so you’ve got to watch for its many manifestations. It can be overt in the form of teasing, yelling, insulting or spreading rumors. It can include outright physical abuse and threats. Bullying also can be covert and include deliberately isolating an employee, piling on extraordinary and unreasonable workloads, invading a person’s privacy or denying someone access to information or tools they need to get their work done.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."