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Bullying in the Workplace

April 13, 2015

Nothing destroys the motivation to do a good job faster than bullying at work. Every one of us longs to be liked and valued, to have our efforts appreciated, and above all to be treated with dignity as a human being, to know we matter as a person. Bullying comes in many forms. One is backbiting and gossip, which make an individual feel isolated and lonely. Bullying is being growled and yelled at, particularly in front of co-workers or customers, constantly criticized, or being forced to do things we weren't hired to do. For example, forcing a front desk employee to fill in for cleaners, groundsmen, or cooks. It is name calling, using put downs such as "stupid", "lazy", or some I wouldn't dare to write. A Rarotonga resort employee shared with me that she and others often were yelled at in front of guests, resulting in many people walking off the job.

Most managers who bully do it out of frustration and a sense of helplessness, not knowing how to get employees to work harder or better. Some are bullies by nature and growl their way through life with their partners and children as well as those who work for them. But bullying never motivates people to do better. Instead it breeds resentment, anger, poor self-esteem and even theft. Bullies can choose to turn into leaders by calling on the virtue of Peace to help them give up the love of power for the power of love.

The Virtues Project offers life skills that help bullies turn into leaders.

  1. Speak the Language of Virtues to empower rather than overpower, and to express appreciation often. When correcting an employee, make an ACT with Tact positivity sandwich, which stands for Appreciate, Correct, and Thank. Find something the person is doing right and name the virtue you see in them, tell them what needs to change, and end by thanking them. For example, "You do an excellent job ordering our supplies and keeping stock up to date. I'd like you to be just as caring when you deal with customers on the phone. You need to use a friendly, courteous way of speaking. Thank you for your respect to listen today."
  1. Recognize Teachable Moments. See mistakes as opportunities to learn rather than reasons to attack. Avoid shaming anyone. Instead name the virtues needed in their job. "Being right on time is important. You need to be reliable every single day." Remember, we're all still learning.
  1. Set clear boundaries based on Justice. Give employees clear job descriptions instead of throwing them into a job with no training, the "sink or swim" approach. Show them what you want them to do, then appreciate their efforts. When they make a mistake, give them a chance to make amends. If they are late to work, then they should stay later to finish or come in earlier the next day. If they are given a warning about what is required for them to keep their job, always follow through and give them the consequences. But don't backbite about them or growl them. No need if your boundaries are clear.
  1. Honour the Spirit. This is treating every person with respect and kindness, focusing on the good things they do, not only their mistakes. It is having celebrations, devotionals, and fun ways of building strong team spirit.
  1. Offer Companioning. Listen to their point of view. Ask them questions such as "What do you think a good job would look like?" and "What would help you to be reliable?"

If you are on the receiving end of bullying, don't add to the backbiting. Go to them face to face and ask what needs to change so that your relationship will be a positive one. Call on your Assertiveness, Courage, and Honesty in two ways: First, speak up. Speak strongly but without anger. Then listen up -- companion your boss. Ask "What do you need from me? How can we work together in a more respectful way?" Get curious, not furious. If you feel bullied after that, tell them if they want to keep you on the job, you need and deserve respect. One person I talked to said that after a bullying incident she left the job for a week, and when her boss begged her to return the employee pointed out all the positive ways she was doing an excellent job and said, "You should appreciate me, not bully me." And she got a pay rise. Most of us ignore and avoid the bullies, but that only lasts so long. People are people, and we all need to be heard and understood.


Author photo
Linda Kavelin-Popov

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