Were you bullied growing up? Or maybe you witnessed a bully at school and didn’t know how to stop them. Well, thankfully those days are behind you, and you don’t have to deal with schoolyard bullies anymore … Right?
The truth is, bullies don’t just stop after they finish school. Some might grow out of the negative behaviors, but many only learn how to be more subtle in the way they bully the people around them as they get older and enter the workforce which makes them harder to spot. Although office bullies are harder to spot when managing a business or department, they can be detrimental to a healthy work environment and drive away your best employees.
What is an office bully?
You may work closely to a workplace bully and not even realize it. Workplace bullies will often set their sights on a co-worker they either view as an easy target or a co-worker who has a position they want. Their need to control, demote, or drive that person away from the company will motivate their actions. In doing so, many office bullies will involve other employees in the workplace who will either side with them, helping to antagonize the targeted employee, or who may have been unknowingly coerced into the situation. The bully will often withhold resources, sabotage projects, and use intimidation to get what they want which ultimately undermines the company’s interests by preventing work from getting done. An office bully can be someone on your staff or a fellow manager.
How do you spot an office bully?
Spotting an office bully can be a difficult task because employees will often avoid including managers in workplace gossip and don’t want to be labeled as the “office tattle.” Fortunately, there are a few tips you can use to spot a bully in any workplace;
- If an employee comes to you to complain about another employee, look at both sides of the situation. Is the accused employee a skilled worker? What does the accuser have to gain from the complaint? Has the accuser spoken with the accused directly before complaining?
- Watch for employees who form a group and leave one or two other employees out.
- Watch how the employees interact with each other. Office bullies are normally master manipulators and can use the emotions of their co-workers to get what they want.
- Bullies will often charm and flatter their superiors to get on their good side. Pay close attention to what this employee is doing when they think you are not looking.
- Maintain a true open-door policy. Allow your employees to be able to come to you with any concerns they may have about the workplace and keep it confidential. Employees won’t talk to you about what is happening in the office if they believe it will be obvious that they talked to you.
Office bullies are often skilled worker’s themselves and will target other skilled workers in the company, watching how they work and finding an area they could improve on to take advantage of the targeted employee.
How do you manage an office bully?
Office bullies are usually good workers that you may not want to lose. At the same time, you don’t want them to drive away the other good workers you have that they will ultimately see as “competition.” Once you have identified an office bully, there are ways to manage them effectively.
- If you witness an employee bullying another, intervene in a nonchalant manner. Say something like “Hey Bob, can I talk to you about the reports you submitted yesterday?” and pull the bullied employee out of the situation. Ask the employee if they are okay and get their side of the story about what was going on. Privately talk to the bully about what you witnessed.
- When speaking with the bully, stay calm and maintain professionalism. This person has likely charmed their way to your good side, and that cannot cloud your judgment.
- Describe the behavior you have witnessed and why it is unacceptable.
- Use documentation! This will give your HR team a point of discussion and maintain a record of the behavior.
- Don’t give in to what the bully wants; this will only reward bad behavior.
- Instead, offer goal for the bully to work towards what they want without ripping down another employee.
- Stick to your statements. Don’t let the fear of losing a hard worker allow the bully to continue their behavior.
The importance of nipping office bullies in the bud.
Office bullies can have a huge impact on a workplace environment and if left unchecked, they can and will drive away good, hard-working employees whether they are the target of the bully or a bystander who witnessed the bully get away with their actions. The company’s productively and reputation will ultimately be damaged if an office bully is left in control.
More than 60 million people are affected by office employees, and 71% of employers will handle the situation in a more harmful than helpful manner. Having HR involved and the behavior documented is key to protecting your staff. Does your company not have an HR department? No matter how small a business is, HR is a must to maintain a healthy work environment.
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