The word bully conjures up a larger than life character with an even louder voice, throwing his or her weight around and intimidating others. This person stands out like a sore thumb.
But there’s another sort of bully; one that hides quietly behind emails yet appears totally acceptable in the open.
It’s important to be able to judge if someone’s actions are as a result of a confrontation stemming from a difference of opinion. Perhaps it’s a disagreement that needs to be aired and debated. The difference between debate and bullying may be just in the way it’s said.
Bullying is not always easy to spot and unacceptable behaviour should not be dismissed or excused as ‘robust management style’ or ‘office banter’.
Recognising different types of bullying
Harassment in the workplace
- Defamatory remarks that are aimed at a personal characteristic that is protected by law relating to race, gender, age, religion, disabilities, marital status, ethnic origin, sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s bullying.
- The bully says, ‘you had better do as I say or I’ll make sure that you never get put forward for promotion’.
Controlling, dominating and competitive aggressive behaviour
- The bully deliberately speaks over a colleague in a meeting not allowing other’s opinions to be heard
- Shouting and aggressive body language
- The bully takes credit for work that others have done
- The bully influences his/her colleague to take action that they are not comfortable with
- Pushing someone to the limit so that they act under stress
- Using language that makes someone feel bad or guilty
- The bully bad mouths or attacks someone’s reputation. Sometimes this can be done so subtly that it’s difficult to spot
- Making insulting remarks about colleagues
Dishonesty and cheating
- The bully doesn’t face up to their short comings but blames others for their own mistakes
- Holding back information that puts their colleague in an awkward situation or doesn’t allow them to achieve the results that they might have done
- Lies, lies and more lies
What can you do about bullying in the workplace?
Creating a bully free culture has to come from the business owner and senior management, demonstrating that every member of the team is valued.
All employees should know that bullying is not tolerated and considered gross misconduct for which they will be dismissed.
As I’ve demonstrated bullying comes in many guises; verbal, written, body language and physical. Training may be required so that it is clear what constitutes bullying, the signs to spot and how to deal with it.
Let employees know that any reports of bullying will be taken seriously and make sure they are familiar with the grievance process that will be followed.