Bullies don’t just dwell on playgrounds anymore. More than a quarter of working Americans say they have been bullied in the workplace. This new generation of aggressors is all grown up, and while they no longer throw sand in your eyes, they still insult you in the form of snide remarks directed your way during department meetings. Or maybe it’s constant interruptions while dismissing your ideas with a wave of their hand, or public trashing of your strategies and management style to anyone who will listen. Bullies are mean. No matter their age, they are intimidating and confrontational. It’s time to put a stop to their ill-meaning ways once and for all.
Steps to Stop Bullying
Whether it’s you who are being bullied or one of your employees, the results can be devastating. People who have been targeted by a bully often feel frustration, rejection and a loss of motivation. Their self-esteem suffers, and so does their work. But there is hope. By taking the right action, you can stop bullies in their tracks and regain stimulus, productivity and optimism. Here are some tried-and-true methods to halt bullying immediately.
- Step 1: Documentation is key. The first step in stopping an office bully is to document everything. This step is often overlooked as an unnecessary waste of time, but it’s the only way to prove the actions are occurring. Write down incidents as soon as they happen; it helps you regain control in a bad situation.
- Step 2: Don’t play the nice guy. Unfortunately, many victims become bullied because they are too nice for their own good. When you have purposefully been hurt by other teams or colleagues, resist the urge to do them any favors, thinking it might soothe things over again. You don’t want to give them opportunities to trash you repeatedly.
- Step 3: Find support. Workplace bullying can leave you feeling dejected, isolated and maybe even depressed. Look for support from a family member, trusted friend or counselor. Without an avenue to express your frustrations, the problem may only get worse. Seek out professional help, such as that of a therapist or doctor, if necessary.
- Step 4: Involve management with an argument they can’t ignore. Sometimes it makes managers uncomfortable when you start talking about emotions. Instead of detailing how vulnerable you feel around a bully, explain the situation in terms they can relate to. Describe how their refusal to cooperate is costing the company additional expenses, wasting valuable time and preventing work from being completed. Nothing makes a manager want to take action faster.
- Be prepared for retaliation. Unfortunately, most bullies don’t give up easily. If they find out you are documenting their every move or trying to include management, they may retaliate. Ask human resources or a manager what policies or procedures the company has in place to protect employees from retaliation tactics. If the bullying continues, you may have to consider legal action.
Should a Bully Be Fired?
Every employee has the right to feel safe and protected in his or her workplace. However, anything that is permitted is promoted. Bullies can’t be allowed to continue their destructive behavior, and often, the only way to fully stop them in their tracks is to fire them. Whether bullies leave the workplace by quitting, being forced out or being terminated, it acts as a wake-up call about their conduct.
As a manager, if you don’t yet feel comfortable with the idea of firing bullies, definitely give them warnings and ultimatums. If they still don’t change their behavior (within a mutually agreed upon amount of time), you are left with no choice. You can’t allow a bully to wreak havoc on good, hard-working employees, or to allow your workplace to lose productivity and value because of one bad apple. Take control and put a halt to bullying immediately.
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