Leadership Principles: Tackling Bullying Behavior

Leadership Principles: Tackling Bullying Behavior

It takes courage to make hard decisions to do the right thing. This is one of the leadership principles that separates ethical and moral leaders from those who turn their backs on complex difficult problems. One of the destructive and confusing forces in the workplace today is bullying. It is one of the fastest growing complaints in the workplace today. Bullying is no respecter of gender as both men and women share equally in this activity.

Bullying is “repeated, deliberate, disrespectful behavior by one or more people toward another for their own gratification, which harms the target.” This phenomenon causes severe emotional, physical and spiritual injury to those targeted, having destroyed the lives of many. It also exacts huge costs from organizations in the form of rapid job turnover, increased sick days, law suits and lower job productivity.

Bullying by nature is subtle and frequently hard to detect. It is tempting for a leader to turn a blind eye and hope that the problem will go away.  David L. Weiner author of Power Freaks tells of an employee whose subtle bullying tactics were confusing at first.

In describing her he says, “What a wonderful person, what a wonderful smile but jeez she went through here like a scythe. This woman was charming and her clients loved her but before long there was blood all over the place.”

Weiner notes that she would single someone out and pick on them quietly until the victim would simply resign. This began to happen with enough regularity that no one wanted to work with her. Weiner failed to recognize the problem for three or four months.  But when he finally saw the truth of things, he exercised courage to deal with the issue, one of his leadership qualities, and finally let her go.

One reason leaders choose to ‘look the other way’ with bullying, is because it can be veiled and confusing. One of the leadership qualities necessary to wrestle this slippery phenomenon to the ground is courage. Courage to step in on behalf of the victim, rock the boat and confront the bully.

A few leaders are indeed doing this, but sadly, the majority of bully targets report little help from their employers. Becoming aware of the different types of bullies will help to understand the nature of this reality more clearly and embolden leaders to act.

There are several types of bullies:

  1. Faultfinder – This extremely negative person is overly judgmental. They use put-downs, insults and belittling comments to destroy self confidence. They lie frequently and cover their insecurity by behaving in a bombastic fashion.  They demand eye contact when talking to you, but refuses the same signal of respect when you’re talking to him
  2. Two-faced person – This bully will be nice and friendly to your face, extracting information from you, and then use the information against you when they are not with you. They will disparage you to your superiors and colleagues and steal your information so they can take credit for the work.
  3. Micro manager – This bully is always ‘in your face’ over-managing everything. They control everything connected to you – resources, time, supplies, praise, approval, money and staffing. The micro manager will make up rules on a whim, designed to make life more difficult for you. They will also strive to isolate you from your co-workers, one of their favorite tactics.
  4. The shouter – This person is the loud-mouth who we all love to hate. They are explosive, impulsive, out of control, self centered, and insensitive to the needs of others. They are very insecure and afraid of getting caught. Use of belligerent  language, often accompanied with veiled or outright threats of violence is often employed as a means of control.

Bullying is a problem that requires leaders with strong leadership qualities. Those in charge need to become informed and always be on the lookout for all types of bullies. It takes courage to face this problem, but the pay-offs to your staff and company will be legion. When you stand up for an inappropriate behavior, your staff will feel protected and they will trust you. You will have an increased sense of trust as a result.

By facing bullying behavior head on and addressing it, you are not only protecting employees from potential bullying in the future, You are looking after the internal health of your organization and encouraging a positive corporate culture.   Courage counts!

Originally published on Performance Critical