Bullying is a big problem in the workplace and managers have to take action

Bullying is a big problem in the workplace and managers have to take action
Image Credit: Pimkie

Can anyone remember going to kindergarten? Way back then life was a lot simpler. We all had a set of rules that were given to us on how to behave (say “thank you”, be kind to others, listen to what the teacher has to say, etc.). Now perhaps not everyone followed each of these rules all of the time, but at least we all knew what the rules were and could always refer back to them. Now move forward into the future in which we are now living. Incivility and it’s close cousin bullying are becoming a bigger issue in the workplace. What is a manager to do?

The Problem With Bullying

So what do the studies tell us? Right now roughly 66% of workers say that they were bullied at work last year. This number has increased from 1998 when only 50% of the workers reported having been bullied in the previous year. For the purposes of this study, the definition of bullying that was used was “treated rudely at least once a month” by either their bosses or their coworkers.

The reason that this is such a big issue is that bullying can cost a company a lot of money. Bullying has the ability to generate costs for a company in both big and small ways. Bullying can reduce the productivity of workers and in some cases it can end up turning off existing and potential customers. A lot of companies would like to think that bullying does not happen in their offices. However, if they would take the time and observe what is actually going on, then they might discover that they have bullying going on in their own backyard.

As a manager, you find yourself in a tricky spot. You’d like to use your manager skills to be seen as being a tough boss; however, you don’t want to come across as bullying the members of your team. You want to get results, you don’t want to be a bully. So how can we draw the line between these two behaviors? Human resource professionals tell us that it is ok to provide members of our team with feedback that is focused exclusively on improving a member’s quality of work or their workplace conduct. This will not be see as being a bully. As managers our manager training tells us that our goal should be to set high standards for our team and then go about reinforcing those standards.

How To Fix The Bullying Problem

Before we can investigate ways to fix this problem, we first need to take a moment and try to understand why bullying is such a growing problem in the modern workplace. What managers need to understand is that it’s the work environment that can lead to a rise in bullying. Some of the conditions that can cause an increase in bullying include work environments that have a lot of millennials in them, work environments that have significant power disparities, or ones in which a few star employees are the ones who bring in a lot of business.

The first steps that a manager needs to take in order to start to eliminate bullying from their team’s work environment is to gain an understanding of how much of this is occurring where you work. The only way that you are going to be able to do this is by setting up a system that will allow the members of your team to report any bad behaviors that they either experience or view. There can be cases where employees will not feel comfortable providing this type of information directly to their management. They feel that it might be able to be traced back to them if it is an anonymous system. In cases like this, it might be a good idea to involve a third party

Another step that managers can take in order to get bullying out of their workplace is to make sure that everyone realizes what appropriate behavior is. Yes, this may seem somewhat juvenile from an adult point-of-view. I mean, don’t we all already know to treat each other with respect, don’t talk bad about others, always say “please” and “thank you”, etc.? The answer is that yes we do know about these behaviors, but unfortunately it can be all too easy during a busy day in the office to forget how we are supposed to behave towards other members of our team. Making sure that the company’s code of conduct is clearly visible to everyone in the workplace means that it may embolden the members of your team and encourage them to speak up when rules are being broken.

What All Of This Means For You

I’m hoping that it goes without saying that bullying has no place in the modern workplace. You need the members of your team working at their peak performance levels and working together on team building and if there is bullying going on, this is not going to be happening. Unfortunately, workplace surveys that have been taken have shown that bullying does exist in the modern workplace and in fact, it has been increasing over the past few years. Looks like its time for managers to take action.

Workers are reporting that they have been bullied in the workplace in the past year. This can be a big deal for companies. Bullying means that workers are not going to be as productive as they need to be. There is also a good chance the employee turnover will be higher than it should be. The problem with bullying is that it puts managers in a tricky place. They want to come across as being firm to their team members, but they don’t want to be a bully. It turns out that if managers focus their conversations with team members on quality of work and conduct, they should be on safe ground. Bullies arise in workplaces that have a lot of young people, unequal power distribution, or a few star performers. To get rid of bullying managers need to make sure that team members feel safe reporting bullying behavior. They also have to make sure that everyone understands what types of behaviors are acceptable and which ones are not acceptable.

Bullying is bad. It can lurk under the surface of a team and slowly cause the team to become less effective. As a manager we need to take the responsibility to discover if bullying exists in our work environment and if it does, then to get rid of it. Our actions can create a work environment that everyone wants to be a part of and where everyone can produce their best work.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: If a manager discovers a bully on their team, what do you think the first steps that they should take in dealing with this person should be?


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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Oh my goodness – can you believe just how hard it is to find the right person to join your team? I mean think about it: we craft the perfect job description, wade through a pile of resumes, use our manager skills to interview far too many people by phone, invite a few in to take up our day and meet with us, and then finally make someone an offer. If we get lucky and they are still available and are still interested in working for our company, then perhaps we’ve found the next person to work for us. However, then comes the most difficult part of the process which is the one that we’ve had no manager training for: convincing them to not quit.


“Think BIG” by Dr. h. c. Harald Seiz – Using the Advice as a Manager
“Think BIG” by Dr. h. c. Harald Seiz – Using the Advice as a Manager

As a manager your aim should always be to perform as well as you can, to achieve the aims and objectives of the company. You also need to make sure that the members of your team are pulling in the the same direction, and that they are enthused about the work that they are doing. Being surrounded by people who are just there for the salary is not going to get the job done as effectively as possible.

Managers can benefit from reading “Think BIG – How to Conquer the World with a Great Idea”, by Dr. h. c. Harald Seiz. The book is aimed at providing advice to would-be entrepreneurs and is written by one of the most well-known entrepreneurs in the world. However, there is useful information for managers of any team.

The value of an effective team

In “Think BIG”, Dr Seiz says,

“Everyone has their limits. That’s why you need the right team. Everyone has their task and everyone is important in their own way for the overall concept to become a well-functioning organism.”

This is true of a manager in a business just the same as it is for an entrepreneur who is looking to build a team around them. No-one achieves success on their own. No matter how good a manager is, their real skill lies in engaging the people who they manage, and motivating them to achieve a shared goal. This skill is discussed in “Think BIG” as it’s just as vital for an entrepreneur who wants to work with a passionate team to engage people with their idea, as it is to a manager who wants to get the best out of the people they manage.

The importance of self-confidence in a manager

In his book, Dr. Seiz talks about the value of self-confidence. He talks about embracing his own self-confidence as a teenager when he impersonated Elvis Presley as his favourite disco. As an entrepreneur himself, Dr. Seiz emphasises how important self-confidence is to anyone who wants a successful entrepreneurial career.

However, the message is just as relevant to managers. It’s vital for a manager to have self-confidence in their own ability. If they do not have this self-confidence, it’s unlikely that their team will be confident in them. This can have an adverse effect on the achievement of business goals.

Making the Dr. Seiz message work for you as a manager

You do not have to be an entrepreneur to benefit from what Dr. Seiz has to say, in “Think BIG”. Yes, that is his intended audience, but many of the messages can be just as useful to managers. It’s important to engender belief in you, from your team. You can do this by being self-confident and showing the people you manage that you know what you are doing, and that you believe in the goals and vision that you are trying to achieve together. This means that your team is more likely to be inspired by you, and have the passion to optimise performance.



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