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November 1, 2016

#MTtalk: The Truth About Bullying

Yolande Conradie

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Fact: Workplace bullying is not a myth.

I was surprised last week to read a tweet that sounded incredulous, saying, "Really? Workplace bullying still exists?" Attached to the tweet was a picture with the famous quote, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Yes, really. It exists. And it's not as easy as giving someone permission or not to make you feel inferior. That's why it's called bullying.

Fact and uncomfortable truth: Bosses who don't want to take responsibility often explain it away.

I was uncomfortable to learn of two cases recently where bosses excused the bully's behavior with platitudes such as, "That's just the way she is" and, "She's too old to change now. You'll just have to deal with it." Another one said, "Just ignore her. You'll get used to it."

During our Twitter chat on Friday, we discussed "the truth about bullying." Our participants felt strongly about taking a stand against any form of it in the workplace.

Here are the questions and some responses from our participants.

Questions about "The Truth About Bullying"

Question 1: What does bullying look like in the workplace?

@MicheleDD_MT: Intense scrutiny of work, withholding information, constantly interrupting while speaking or "talking over" to cut them off.

@Dwyka_Consult: [It] is when one person tries to intimidate, hurt or humiliate someone else on an ongoing basis.

Question 2: What's the difference between conflict and bullying?

@harrisonia: Bullying is a one directional power struggle over another. Conflict is a difference of opinion or approach, resolved or not.

@Liz: The difference is in the motive, the persistence (a campaign to demoralize) and often the secrecy. It's not honest.

Question 3: What does the workplace bully get out of bullying?

@amypen64: It's a powerplay. They want you under their thumb.

@NootsCaboots: The bully might be trying to push down their own insecurities, so they decide to lash out and isolate others.

Question 4: What are some of the "hidden" or less well known forms of bullying?

Hurtful humor is a big one and, apart from that, there are enough of these to keep us busy for a long time!

@Midgie_MT: Hidden forms of ‪bullying might include put-down comments, undermine capabilities, exclusion from groups, withholding information.

@Ganesh_Sabari: Sarcasm masked as camaraderie during semi-formal meetings; micro-management.

@harrisonia: Another form of bullying is treating others "less than" because of their non-designer attire/cosmetics.

@CaptRajeshwar: Not sharing work importance deadline and implications. Informing all that you are responsible without telling you.

Question 5: Why might "hidden" or indirect forms of bullying be more difficult to deal with?

@SayItForwardNow: Covert behaviors, including hidden forms of ‪bullying, are difficult to address because they are often "invisible."

Question 6: How does bullying affect the victim, and how can you avoid becoming one?

@SAPTAonline: It can cause an employee to become actively disengaged - especially if they don't get support.

@BrainBlenderTec: It can lead to health issues and insecurities which can be immobilizing.

You can avoid becoming a victim by bringing the bullying out in the open and also by knowing your workplace policies.

@TwisterKW: Make statements. Pull the curtain on disguised bullying. Ask clarifying questions: What do you mean by that? What are you saying?

Question 7: How might you deal with bullying that takes place online or by email?

@harrisonia: Bullying via email or online, in general = KEYBOARD COURAGE!

@work_nm: Keep a record of ‪bullying and contact the service provider.

@BrainBlenderTec: That's where block and report come in. You don't have time for it!

Question 8: If you realized that one of your colleagues was a bully, how would you confront him or her?

@Yolande_MT: I'll ask the person what they're trying to accomplish and if they're getting results. Maybe help them work out a better way?

@SayItForwardNow: Reveal what I know, insist that the bullying MUST stop, and offer help in addressing the situation.

Question 9: How can you support team members or colleagues who are being bullied?

@SAPTAonline: Ask the victim how you can best support them. Don't assume you know what support they need. Then give them that support.

@NootsCaboots: Let them know that you're there to support them and offer to speak to HR if the victim hasn't done so themselves.

Question 10: What ongoing actions or measures can you take to prevent workplace bullying?

@work_nm: Don't be a bystander.

@Yolande_MT: Be strong in your values, firm in your actions, fair in your decisions. Everyday, with everybody.

Next time, on #MTtalk...

Does your company do enough to retain talented employees? Please cast your vote in our Twitter poll here.

Do you know who the high performers and low performers in your company are? And do the high performers tend to stay or go? In our next #MTtalk, on Friday November 11, we'll be talking about retaining your talented employees. Join us at 1pm EST/6pm GMT.

To participate in "Talented People: Going or Growing?" type #MTtalk in the Twitter search function. Then, click on "All Tweets" and you’ll be able to follow the live chat feed. To join the conversation, simply include #MTtalk in your tweet and it will show up in the chat feed.


In the meantime, if you'd like to learn more about dealing with bullying in the workplace, here are some resources:

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4 comments on “#MTtalk: The Truth About Bullying”

  1. This is an uncomfortable truth: Bosses who don’t want to take responsibility often explain it away.
    The lack of taking action against a bullying employee should be an offense in terms of a company's disciplinary code. Do others agree?

    1. Hi Rebel,
      I agree with you Rebel that it should be considered an 'offense' if anyone, a manager or a person in any position of authority, does not take any claim of bullying seriously. I personally believe that all claims should be investigated, looked into and addressed. By trying to simply explain it away, in my mind, disrespects the person making the claim and opens the door to more bullying. Yet, I wonder whether that is actually included in the policy. Anyone care to share ... do you have written policies related to what happens if a bullying complaint is 'not handled' or ignored?

  2. Bullying in the workplace is like a poison putting someone into uncomfortable situations. Less of actions from the authority makes an employee unproductive can lead to less effectiveness on performing his/her duty. Bosses must address this issue immediately as many are proven that bullying is not a myth.

    1. Thanks Marc for sharing your thoughts. Indeed bullying is like a poison and needs to be addressed quickly and seriously. Sometimes it takes time for the person involved to recognize the behaviors as a form of bullying and say something about it.

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