Once you are out of school and finished your tertiary education, you really don’t expect to encounter bullying, but the sad reality is that bullying is rife in the workplace.
Director at The Human Edge, Helene Vermaak says that ‘that toxic behaviour including the likes of making false accusations, glaring, discounting others’ ideas, backbiting, gossiping, constantly criticising, giving people the silent treatment and making impossible demands are all examples of workplace bullying.
“There is a lot of attention on workplace harassment inspired usually by gender, race or belief biases – but not much attention is paid to straight bullying,” says Vermaak.
“As leaders, it’s important to make it clear that all forms of disrespect, dishonesty and lack of teamwork are not permitted at work. Perhaps it’s time for companies to begin talking not only about harassment but social abuse in general—giving specific examples of unacceptable behaviour that fall under the rubric of bullying.”
So, how do you stop a bully? Vermaak offers five pointers:
1. Reverse your thinking. Most of us suffer in silence because all we consider are the risks of speaking up. Those who speak up and hold others accountable tend to do the opposite. They think first about the risks of NOT speaking up. Changing the order of the risk assessment makes you much more likely to take action.
2. Facts first. Present your information, as if talking to a jury. Stick with the detailed facts. Be specific. Strip out any judgmental or provocative language.
3. Validate concerns. Often the bullying behaviour was triggered by some legitimate concern. Be sure to validate that need while demonstrating an unwillingness to tolerate the way it was handled.
4. Share natural consequences. Let them know the consequences of behaviour—to you, others, customers, projects, etc.
5. Hold boundaries. Let them know how you expect to be treated in the future. Ask for their commitment. And let them know what your next step will be if there is a recurrence.
Bullies at work can cause embarrassment, fear, lack of motivation and often-even depression. The victim usually decides to keep quiet and not deal with the issue because the conflict makes him or her uncomfortable. It’s time for this to stop, says Vermaak. “The longer a bully is allowed to continue, the more people will fall victim to his or her behaviour, which clearly isn’t acceptable.”