Recently, I was speaking with an account manager at an organization I visited. She asked me about my company and in time I started talking about my nonprofit, Indigo Insights. I shared with her that we provide mental healing by nourishing the spirit and the mind of people who are challenged on life's journey.
This piqued her interest. She shared with me that she was new to the company after being forced to leave her old job. She started telling me about how she was bullied. Wow...she was bullied! And, she experienced psychosomatic responses based on her past leader's abuse. What makes this egregious is that the person whom she trusted to protect her within the workplace victimized his employee(s). The troubled kid on the playground pulling little girl's hair and threatening others grew up to terrorize people in the workplace.
Even though, I know exactly what bullying is, I feel compelled to go to my electronic sage, Google, to see what it says about bullying. According to the American Psychological Association,
Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words or more subtle actions. The bullied individual typically has trouble defending him or herself and does nothing to "cause" the bullying.
There are countless professionals who are bullied daily, and it creates a mental dis-ease. My research reveals that the focus is usually on the employee who is being victimized versus the bully in the workplace. I believe that we as Americans marginalize the problem, similar to how we used to overlook children who were picked on. Even today, we'll hear people say that s/he needs to toughen up, get over it, stand up for yourself, and so forth. But, what happens when you are in a company in which the bully is your boss, or even the owner?
You as a leader must take the pulse of your organization! If you see that you or a co-worker is unreasonably tough on an employee, there may be some underlying systemic bullying issues going on that stem from a lack of leadership skills or a mental health challenge. Yes, you are culpable of the bullying that is taking place in your organization.
Keep in mind that millions of dollars can be lost from bullying in your workplace. This can happen due to ongoing sick days taken by employees, an inability to attract or retain employees, or the possible lawsuit that you may have to fight and then quite possibly lose.
Here are some ways you can prevent and remedy bullying if it is occurring in your workplace:
Allow people to have a voice by discussing your views on bullying. Often people suffer in silence out of fear that just maybe it's their fault until they realize that no, the bully is in fact a bully. Encourage employees to tell of their experience even if it means having a vehicle for anonymous complaints. As the leader, get out of your office and manage by walking. Get to know your people by talking with them, and then observe how they engage one another and engage you.
Hire a consultant/trainer to offer a workshop that explores personality traits. Often certain behaviors that people boast of possessing may actually come across as bullying, such as a combination of challenging others, being motivated by power, forcefulness, impatience, and insensitivity. These are just a few traits that come from a personality profile called DiSC, where D stands for Dominant. Your kick-ass demeanor may be over the top for the workplace.
Your handbook should discuss a TRUE open door policy wherein people can come directly to you for such concerns. Also, have your HR department and an attorney write a policy that speaks to bullying, a hostile environment and an inclusive workplace. Importantly, have a three-step disciplinary process to manage bullying issues.