Workplace Bullying: We’re All Part of the Dynamic
As a conflict consultant, I research the reality of workplace bullying every day. Among the academic and scientific studies, dozens of books, and hundreds of articles written every year, I see a pattern of “conventional wisdom” emerging. The familiar themes sound like this:
“All bullies are awful people.”
“All bullies target the weak.”
“Laws and policies will fix this problem”
Conventional Wisdom Is Interesting but Not Helpful
Though I am encouraged that more is written about the subject than ever before—I’m also troubled by these themes: blaming the bully, victimizing the target, leaving solutions to rules and laws.
We All use Bullying Behaviors. We’re all Targets
I may catch some heat for this, but here’s the truth: we’re all doing bullying at some time or another and we’re all targets at other times. Sometimes we’re on top, other times we’re on the losing end.
Abrasive and aggressive behaviors are on a continuum and are also contextual but no one is innocent. Have you ever ignored a co-worker? Intentionally left someone out of a meeting? Taken credit for someone else’s work? Lost your temper and yelled at someone in public? Gossiped about someone in the office? If so, did you see that as bullying behavior? Did you mean it to be bullying? Would you do it again? Were you using these behaviors as a way to manipulate, manage or control people or situations? (Intentional bullying) Or were you being thoughtless and heartless in that moment? (Unintentional bullying)
Can Policies and Laws Make the Difference?
Can an anti-bullying policy or law stop the everyday abuses we experience and put upon others? Maybe they can work in extreme situations and can give some leverage to administrators. Are we going to wait until a policy is written or a law is enacted before we take action to help ourselves behave less like bullies and less like targets?
What Can you Do?
The real question isn’t “who is the bully and who is being bullied” but rather
When you, yourself, might be bullying: “How might my behavior be perceived as bullying, and what other ways can I make my point so that I’m not harming people?”
When you feel like you’re being bullied: “How might I change my behavior so that I don’t encourage bullying?”
If you have been accused of bullying or been a target of bullying, learn what to do, what to say, and how to handle yourself in a more fruitful and productive way. Join my teleclass, “From Victim to Victorious” every Friday, 9AM pacific, noon eastern. I will be giving everyone a chance to evaluate the class for free for the first 3 weeks. For more information, click here.
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I’ve been 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.
I’m Kathleen Bartle, Conflict Consultant.