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The "Bully" and his/her victim has become a sad theme in the news lately. Movies have been made about them, "My Bodyguard" and "Drill Bit Taylor" to name just a couple. We have been victims and we have been bullies and we have been onlookers too. Sometimes laughing, sometimes feeling pity for the victim often times thinking; "better him than me" and some of us have had the fortitude to stand up to a bully. The outcome going in any number of directions. I remember a grade school bully; Brian J. If Brian would have invested just a third of his time studying instead of thinking of ways to make the rest of us miserable he would have likely graduated before he was 21. Think "A Christmas Story" and the kid with the yellow eyes! Having been a victim a few times, I have no tolerance for bullies. Not in school, in public or at work. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your viewpoint, the days of "stepping outside to settle the matter" is long gone. The loser of such an encounter in today's lawsuit happy environment is likely to sue for all he or she can get from the victor, any onlookers and employers regardless of how the altercation came about or who insulted who or who shoved first. In today's work environment there are too many unknown variables. For instance, the guy or gal who is agitated at work; Are they upset because they are going through a divorce, they are having financial troubles or did they murder their in-laws last week and have yet to figure out how to dispose of the bodies? You just don't know who you're dealing with anymore. I am not a violent person by nature and have been pretty successful in my adult years at deescalating potential volatile situations. This is especially true in my personal life. In my professional life working in law enforcement, corrections and security related positions there were times that no matter what I said or how I said it some people just took it all wrong! While the dialogue didn't always work I still look at it as a learning experience, teaching me what NOT to say. Playground bullies grow up. They become adults and while some of them manage to change their way of thinking in regard to interacting with the rest of the human race, some don't, they just change tactics. Bullying behavior may seem like a minor issue when we have kids bringing guns, knives and drugs to school and it is often dismissed as part of growing up, but according statistics of the National Crime Prevention Counsel one in four children who bully will have a criminal record before the age of 30. Nowadays we have not only the typical adult bully, usually a "big feller" loud and obnoxious, but we have bullies behind the wheel of their vehicle who think they own the road, we have bullies on the internet and we have bullies at work. It's the workplace bullies that I want to talk about. So what exactly is a workplace bully? It is important to distinguish between normal worker conflict
and workplace bullying. Bullying is defined as repeated, persistent, continuous behavior as opposed to a single negative act and is generally associated with a power imbalance between the victim and perpetrator, where the victim feels or is made to feel inferior (Salin 2003). Bullying should not be confused with a tough or strict style of management. Examples of workplace bullying behaviors include silent treatment, starting or encouraging rumors, personal attack of a person's private life and/or personal attributes, excessive or unjustified criticism, micro management, verbal abuse such as name calling, withholding job relevant information, withholding job responsibility, replacing proper work with demeaning jobs, setting unrealistic goals or deadlines. Often bullying in the workplace is no different than bullying anywhere else and includes acts or verbal comments that could "mentally" hurt or isolate a person or involve physical contact such as pushing or throwing objects. Surveys suggest that 37 per cent of workers have been bullied at work, and 45 per cent of the targets reported stress levels that affected their health (U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey: September, 2007). This information should be of great importance to managers and supervisors not only because of the negative consequences to the employee victim but because of the high potential for litigation and claims that could result. Characteristics of those who bully include low-self esteem, poor communication skills, unresolved work issues from earlier in their career and the belief they have the right to inflict controlling and abusive behaviors onto others. They often are viewed as charmers and may be well liked by their supervisors. Of course we have other names for these folks, but let's keep it professional. Additionally, they often bully to cover up their own insecurities and weaknesses. According to Rowell (2005), 81 per cent of bullies are managers, 4 per cent are peers, and five per cent are lower-ranking staff. Those who bully have psychological issues that have accumulated over time and are carried throughout their life. Bullying occurs over and over again by these individuals because the organization either ignores their behavior or does not know how to deal with the issues and enforce organizational policies and procedures related to acceptable behaviors or have no policies in place. Who is the typical victim of the workplace bully? Remember we said that one reason bullies behave the way they do is to compensate for their own insecurities. Often the victim is a hard working, intelligent employee and the bully feels threatened or intimidated. Bullies also tend to victimize those that desperately need the job and are less likely to quit or resign as a result of the behavior. According to a study in 2007 by the Canadian Workplace Bully Institute, Women are targeted by bullies more frequently than men, especially by other women. There are serious negative potential outcomes of workplace bullies that need to be considered. The behavior not only affects the victim, but the overall business or organization. The victim, as a result of being exposed to the abusive behavior is likely to call in sick frequently rather than face another day of humiliation, become less productive while at work, depression or as a last resort resign. When the victim is not at work, then work is not being done, high turnover rate, short and even long term disability claims could result. All of these will negatively affect the organization as a
whole. If the senior management does not take steps to prevent or stop the abusive behavior they will gain the reputation as a less than desirable place to work and rightfully so and as previously mentioned, potential for legal action as a result of the management's lack of action could result in thousands upon thousands of dollars in lawsuits. While it is the employer's responsibility to provide a workplace that safe and free from hazards, all employees, co-workers and associated workers should feel compelled to assist one another regardless of their position. If you are being bullied at work there are some things you can do that may help: If you feel confident and safe in doing so, confront the bully and let him/her know that their behavior is not appreciated or acceptable and that you want it to stop. Report it to your supervisor. If the supervisor is the bully or you feel the supervisor is enabling or ignoring the problem, then go to the next level. Document, document, document! Write down every incident. Include, time, date, a summary of the incident and list witnesses. Be willing to consider your own feelings. Are you truly being victimized? Are you being overly sensitive?
When confronted by a bully, don't argue. Remember that someone has to be the adult. Let it be you. Remain calm and maintain eye contact without turning it into a "stair down". Say something like, "I was just heading out, can we talk about it tomorrow" as you walk away. "Really? You think so? Hmmm... maybe you're right" again as you walk away. "I don't agree, but we can talk about it another time". It's important to remain calm and professional, but it's also important to disengage from the confrontation. Try and do both. Remember that there are likely to be witnesses, so your professional response to his/her unprofessional behavior will carry much weight. On this note, avoid being alone with the bully if this is possible. Senior managers and supervisors should address workplace bullying as they would any other identified workplace health or safety hazard. Once it is identified, the degree of risk should be evaluated, controlled and reviewed to ensure that it does not become, or continue to be, a problem within the workplace. An assessment of the risks within a workplace should also consider those to the employer if workplace bullying is not appropriately dealt with. There is a four step process that employers can use to minimize the direct and indirect costs associated with bullying in their workplace and ensure that the health, safety and welfare of staff and associated people are not negatively affected or otherwise compromised. Identify the Hazard: It is the responsibility of the employer to determine if bullying in the workplace exists. Assess/Evaluate the Risk Factor: In discussion with those involved, determine how the behavior has and is likely to affect employee's health (both physical and mental), welfare and safety if allowed to continue. Control the Risk: Develop policies, plans and procedures that deal with bullies in the workplace. Include a "zero tolerance" approach and consequences for violation of the policy as well as reporting procedures.
Follow Up: Follow up to see how effective the implemented policy and control measures are. This can be done by an outside consultant, especially for larger firms and facilities, conducting climate surveys of all employees or by simply open dialogue between senior management and employees and staff.
Every business an organization is different, but it is important that every employee feels valuable to the overall goal and mission of that organization. One victim of one bully is too much. If you think you do not have a problem, think again and find out. If KNOW you do not have a problem, then now is the time to consider an action plan to prevent it. If you do have a problem, ignoring it will not make it go away. Address the issue, correct it and prevent it from happening again. Your employees deserve it; they require it and employers are responsible for making it happen.
Randall Milks is owner and director of Ran-Mar Services, Effective Risk Reduction, a private and public safety training and service provider. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at his website: http://www.ranmarservices.com.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Randall_Milks
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