Monday, October 10, 2005

Workplace Bullying - Part I

Bullies...who hasn't encountered one? They are part and parcel of life and come in various forms and sizes. One trait that they all shared is that they are insecured and they masked this insecurity by picking on folks who either would not fight back or were too afraid. I've had my share of bullies while growing up and have gotten into a few fights where I won and also lost. Nowadays, it's different as more than likely the bullies are in a group and even if it's one-on-one, the chances of the bully coming back with friends are pretty high (as in swarming).

Bullying occurs in various forms but basically it's an attempt to frighten, to coerce and to intimidate. It could be the government (e.g. the government vs the BC Teachers Federation) or it could be an organization/individual.

So, what do you do if you have a workplace bully? It depends on whether you are a co-worker or a manager. Let's start with the co-worker scenario as this is likely more common. Let's say that you or another co-worker has been subjected to this bully. First thing would be tell the bully that his/her behaviour is unacceptable and point out specific instances (NB: Keep to the specifics as most likely the bully will try and divert attention to some trivial non-issues). This should be followed up by telling him/her that it would be taken up to management if it continues. Once it's brought to management attention, it then becomes an issue for management to deal with as it should be. If management refuses to deal with the situation then maybe it's time to move on to a different organization. Seriously, you spend a good portion of your life working and why should you do it in an organization that doesn't value your commitment?

That's it for the employee/co-worker portion. What happen if the bully is your supervisor/manager instead of a co-worker and you don't feel comfortable with confronting your supervisor/manager? My suggestion is to approach HR and seek their advice. I would even go as far as to have an HR rep present when you meet with your supervisor/manager to discuss the bullying issue. NB: Please do keep in mind that HR represent the employer - in this case, the organization not the manager/supervisor.

In part II, I will focus on the managerial portion of dealing with Workplace Bullying. If you are in Canada, here's a link to the Canada Safety Council on Workplace Bullying.

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