Workplace Bullying: Identifying Types of Bullying Behavior When You Don’t See it Happening

Workplace Bullying: Identifying Types of Bullying Behavior When You Don’t See it Happening

As a employer or boss – if you receive complaints of bullying behavior, how do you identify the type of behavior when you aren’t around to see the target being bullied in real time? This blog from Crain’s Cleveland Business presents the question.

The reality is, a boss or manager can’t be in all places and all times, and very often is not physically present when the bullying behavior occurs. In addition, sometimes the perpetrator in question is a highly sharp and/or charismatic individual, and may reign in behavior when he knows “the higher ups” are watching.

So what to do?

Workplace Bullying and other Workplace Conflict Signs

Signs of unproductive conflict are not always easy to spot.  Here are a few guidelines.

  • Is a manager running meetings with iron fist?  There is a fine line  “tough but fair” and techniques that are abrasive and counterproductive. If employees are leaving meetings demoralized and with less energy than when they came in, there might be other behavior that’s happening outside of the meetings. Pay attention and see what your manager is doing. He may be an Abrasive Personality.
  • Are managers using “scare tactics” and other “motivational techniques” used to pit employees against each other? Though this might be common in some organizational cultures, like high finance or law, in most other areas this sort of management wears on employees and makes them less productive. Are the “motivational” techniques being used actually causing harm? This could be a sign of Manipulative Leadership.
  • Is the manager acting unpredictable or irrational? There might be something else going on. A sudden change or stress in this person’s life may be setting them off, and effecting their subordinates.  If you are noticing it, the people under his or her watch are definitely being impacted, too. It is also possible that this person may have a High Conflict Personality, which can cause a host of unpredictable behaviors.
  • Is your manager or other employee competitive to a fault? Do you have an ambitious manager or other employee that will do anything to get ahead? Do other employees steer clear of this person? Are other employees complaining of his or her questionable techniques to get ahead, like lying, gossiping, or sabotaging work? This is called Strategic Aggression – and may be hard to spot because many of these ambitious types are star key employees.
  • Is there a sudden change in an ordinarily excellent employee? Are they unexpectedly withdrawn, depressed, or not performing to their usual high standard? Are they being isolated from meetings or seem to have a suddenly huge workload? Are their strange rumors or bad-spirited gossip floating around about that employee?  It is possible they may be a target of Classic Bullying Behavior.  They may be on the receiving end of this behavior from a manager, or from another employee or group of employees. Pay attention.

For more information on recognizing the signs of workplace bullying or other unproductive workplace conflict so you can stop it NOW, contact me, Kathleen Bartle.  I have years of experience tailoring workplace conflict solutions that will work specifically for your organization.  

I’m Kathleen Bartle, a strategic consultant on workplace conflict to executives worldwide for more than 20 years.  My work brings individualized solutions to your teams’ lost productivity, loss of key personnel, low morale, and the high costs resulting from bullying, abrasive behaviors and interpersonal workplace conflicts.  You can contact me here.

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