Foundations For Positive Change In the Workplace: Part 1

How to Help your Company Stop Workplace Abrasive & Bullying Behaviors

Part One: Challenging the Eight Myths that Perpetuate Aggression in the Workplace

As business become more demanding and high-pressure and costs conscious, there emerges a challenge that must be addressed to remain highly competitive and productive. That challenge is how to handle the increasing incidences of abrasive, bullying and aggressive people. It is critical to address this challenge because bullying type behaviors are a significant part of the day-to-day life of your business and have a major impact on your bottom line.

The staggering billion dollar costs of bullying include the company reputation, legal action, and high turnover of valued employees, healthcare, absenteeism and sick leave. These are costs that no company can justify. The best and ONLY way to stop the ‘bully money bleed’ is through a systematic action plan built on a sound foundation. That is your challenge.

From my career as an executive coach focusing on abrasive and bullying behaviors in the workplace, I see three key factors at the root of this challenge. The first is that company leaders will have to abandon their long-held beliefs about conflict and responsibility.  Second, company leaders will have to examine their own behaviors with respect to using aggression to accomplish goals. And third, company leaders will have to commit to effective, targeted, and proven methods for dealing with aggressive people and their targets

Company leaders will have to abandon their long-held beliefs about conflict and responsibility

Eight Myths & Eight Truths about Workplace Aggression and Responsibility

No one wants to deal with bullying, aggressive or abrasive people. Most people are conflict averse – conflict fearful. Most people are afraid of bullies and so avoid them. Most people shun the targets of bullies for fear of being swept up into the world of the victim. This aversion to conflict and the fear of bullies and their targets has created a group of myths that perpetuate aggression. Logic be damned!

1.  The hands-off myth
That is the myth that people who are fighting should ‘take it outside’ and work it out

The hands-off truth
Workplace conflicts are always the business of the company. Employees expect you to care about productivity, civility, and best practices and so do their lawyers. Conflicts may seem interpersonal but the invisible 3rd party is YOU the organization.

2.  The not my problem myth
This is the myth that the organization isn’t responsible for dealing with interpersonal conflicts so they have no reason getting involved

The not my problem truth
No one likes to become involved in interpersonal conflicts because they seem so intimate and personal. But there is no intimacy in the workplace. Bosses and the boss of a boss up the chain have a fiduciary duty to be involved in stopping and resolving aggressive behavior.

3.  The can’t take sides myth
This is the myth that all conflicts are personality or character driven so the organization shouldn’t be taking sides

The can’t take side truth
Being neutral is never neutral. Not taking sides is supporting the aggressor and abandoning the target of that aggression. Not taking sides is tantamount to condoning and encouraging aggressive behavior.

4.  The cost-saving myth
This is the myth that it’s cheaper to ignore conflict than deal with it

The cost-saving truth
Ignoring bullying and aggressive behavior is a multi-billion dollar drain on a company. The more proactive a company is – policy, training, investigations, coaching, enforcing findings, the cheaper it is

5.  The costs of doing business myth
This is the myth that it’s cheaper to pay to make problems go away than to help create a healthy workplace intolerant of bullying

The costs of doing business truth
Every proactive activity is a cost-saving measure. It’s always more expensive to repair something after it breaks than while it is breaking

6.  The no-policy means no-problem myth
This is the myth that if the company doesn’t have a policy, then they don’t have a problem to solve

The no-policy means no-problem truth
Policies are irrelevant. Bullying is happening and employees and stakeholders expect that you will fix the problem

7.  The manager is always right myth
This is the myth that any employee who complains about their manager is a whiner, slacker, shirker and troublemaker

The manager is always right truth
Managers are not always right. Sometimes they’re incompetent or poor communicators or are in over their heads, or have a character disorder. Assuming one class of employees is right because of their class is as absurd as assuming one race or gender or religion has the truth. This mindset is the antithesis of good business practices where the focus is on hiring the best not assuming the best.

8.  The bully gets-the-message myth
This is the myth that if you have a program admonishing bad behavior, or threaten a bullying with disciplinary action, or reason with a bully, that the bullying will stop

The bully gets-the-message truth
Bullies bully because they’re short on coping and communication skills. Rarely do they self-identify as bullies or even abrasive and certainly not aggressive. They have hundreds of defense mechanisms, justifications and explanations for acting out. They may think they’re doing the company a favor by keeping employees in line. The things that cause aggressive behavior as the same that keep aggressive people from recognizing they’re the culprits. It takes specially trained professionals to break through the bully’s defenses and no simple conversation or threat or program will work.

This is a wakeup call to you. Understand the myths and the truths that counteract them so you can build a coherent argument for company policies, programs, investigations, and interventions to stop abrasive, bullying, and aggressive behaviors in your workplace.

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Part 2 of the Foundations For Positive Change In the Workplace:
How to Help your Company Stop Workplace Abrasive & Bullying Behaviors series is an exploration of beliefs about the intersections of leadership, accountability, productivity and aggressionCompany leaders will have to examine their own behaviors with respect to using aggression to accomplish goals.

Part 3 of the Foundations For Positive Change In the Workplace:
How to Help your Company Stop Workplace Abrasive & Bullying Behaviors series is a review of proven methods for handling aggressive people and their targets.  Company leaders will have to commit to effective, targeted, and proven methods for dealing with aggressive people and their targets.