Working With A Bully
Chuck Horton, long-time Duluth boxing coach, has seen the detrimental effects of bullying first hand. He is working to empower the children of Duluth by teaching them the art of boxing in order to put a stop to the rampant bullying that is plaguing the Twin Ports community.
It’s been my experience that adult bullies are unhappy people. They don’t like their job, significant other, living space, etc. and the best way to feel better is to make someone else unhappy.
I have a friend, “James”, who has been divorced a few times and is now happily remarried. A coworker of his, “John”, is in his first marriage; he is miserable. Instead of fixing his own dismal situation, John pokes and badgers James at every opportunity and tries to make him feel bad because of the previous unsuccessful marriages. What a happy environment.
A 2014 study by the Workplace Bullying Institute is full of details and statistics about bullies at work. One of the most interesting was that 32% of employers said that workplace bullying either is a non-issue or that they’d never even heard of it. The other 68% said it was a serious problem. That is a lot of bullies.
Personally I have seen a fair amount of bullying in the workplace. One type I have experienced firsthand is someone interrupting during a meeting or discussion and then hijacking the conversation. It’s as if they’re saying only their opinions and comments matter, and it’s very frustrating. These were often times the same people who took credit for other’s work or tried to pawn off their own responsibilities.
In the hotel business we had a term called covert leader. These bullies took their importance to another level. Often times they would demean their coworkers in front of other employees and guests. They put on a happy and helpful façade when their supervisors were around, and then gossiped about them or falsely accused them of mistakes in their absence. They were dividing the employees and turning people against management and each other. Typically the covert leader was uncovered and dealt with accordingly. Other times they flew under the radar and the business lost a lot of good employees. And guests, ouch.
- Some other signs of bullying at work include
- Being disciplined in public (discipline in private, praise in public)
- Gossiping about other employees
- Interrupting someone or inserting one’s self into a private conversation
- Sabotaging someone’s work to make them look bad
- Unfair distribution of labor/tasks
- Being left out of meetings or projects
Why do we let them get away with it? Frankly many employers do not have policies against bullying in place. Or maybe the management enjoys the culture of eat or be eaten. I’ve worked in places where we were pitted against each other for assignments and promotions. It makes for a tough environment. I had the ulcer to prove it. And the employees hated coming to work. That is not good for productivity.
What can you do if you’re being bullied at work? You can ignore the person and hope it stops. You could try to have a conversation with the person and ask that they stop. You could talk to human resources or your boss. Or if it’s really bad, find another job.
Worried that your boss won’t even care? They should. Work environments that have bullying issues suffer from higher stress levels, and that means increased turnover. That translates into money that comes off the bottom line. And I’ve never met an employer that wasn’t concerned with that.