More than 1 in 4 Americans deal with an on-the-job bully. While there are no general civility or anti-bullying laws in place at the federal or state levels, companies that want to vanquish bullying in the workplace can adopt their own guidelines or codes of conduct. That begins by enforcing a policy statement asserting that all people, regardless of race, gender, background, belief system or position in the company, will be treated with respect, dignity and civility. In addition, the policy should state that any type of bullying that demeans, diminishes, defames or belittles a person through rumors, lies, devious and selfish acts, unilaterally boastful comments about self and derogatory comments about others, antisocial or aggressive behavior, or any acts that create a hostile work environment will not be tolerated.
Here are some strategies for managing bullies out of your business that I and my co-author, Molly D. Shepard, recommend in our book The Bully-Proof Workplace: Essential Strategies, Tips and Scripts for Dealing with the Office Sociopath (McGraw-Hill, 2017):
-- Examine your own behavior to ensure that you are setting a good example. Remember, as a leader in your organization, you are a role model who can influence others, like it or not.
-- Discuss bullying behavior and its consequences openly with your team. Review the most appropriate ways of addressing it and eradicating it.
-- Do not stay silent if you experience bullying or see it. Remember, when someone exhibits bullying behavior and gets away with it, it reinforces the behavior.
-- Designate points of contact so employees know where to turn for help.
-- Take a stand for yourself. Stay calm, but refuse and rebuke the bad behavior in a forthright way.
We may not get bullies to admit that they are wrong, but their harmful behavior can be discouraged by individuals standing up for themselves in a workplace culture designed to support a bully-free work zone.
A bully-free workplace is a place where all workers are fully engaged and committed to the organization's mission, while maintaining positive relations with all stakeholders in the company; where workers communicate honestly—and respectfully—with colleagues, peers and bosses; where leaders engage with employees and listen carefully to gauge the pulse of the organization; and where relationships are reciprocal and responsibility is shared. It's a place where bullies' misbehavior is dealt with seriously so everyone can get on with their work.
Peter J. Dean, PhD., is the founder and president of Leaders By Design, a company that provides leadership development for executives.