Thursday, February 19, 2009

HR Can Be the Company Champion

Human Resources can be the company’s champion by decreasing company costs. One sure-fire way to reduce company costs is to have a solid, well communicated, and enforced anti-workplace bullying policy.

Here is a basic outline for creating a policy:

1. Enlist support of upper managers and administration.
2. Use HR’s bountiful access to personnel records to compile data on the
a. Number of voluntary and involuntary departures
b. Reasons for voluntary and involuntary departures
c. Cost of recruiting and selecting replacements
d. Cost of training replacements, including loss in productivity of
co-workers who assist new-hires or whose work reaches a bottleneck due to slower productivity when new-hires come on board.
e. Does a particular unit/department have significantly more absences than others?
3. Create an anti-bullying policy for the company that meets with administration approval.
4. Communicate the policy to all levels of the organization making sure it is clearly stated and accessible to all employees. Post it in the break room, so everyone knows what bullying is and how to report it.
5. ENFORCE the policy.

If your organization already has a policy, review it to determine whether it adheres to the Healthy Workplace Bill.

In time workplace bullying will be illegal. Now is the time to create your policy and be ready for the law.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Your Thoughts Determine Your Destiny

Regardless of who we are, where we are, and what we do, attention to these words may lead us to be better people at work and at home:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.—Origin Uncertain

Friday, February 6, 2009

Queen Bees and Bullies at Work

The obviously pregnant woman shook so violently from head to toe that I worried about the welfare of her baby. Was she cold? Was she nervous? No, she was enraged and trying with every fiber of her being to control her anger.

The key word is control--of herself and others. As a bully, she had a specific target. As a passive-aggressive personality, she had many years of practice in control before she met the target referenced here. Three of her techniques for retaining control were (1) to never divulge information about herself, (2) to always present herself as the image of perfection, and (3) to never lose self-control. Losing self-control would mean losing control of the situation and revealing something of her inner-self.

Passive-aggression, briefly defined as handling hostility or anger in underhanded ways, is reflected in the Gatekeeper category of workplace bullies. Gatekeepers often seize control by deviously withholding information and materials needed by other employees to do their jobs.

With some behaviors, she resembled office “Queen Bees”—collecting information that she may use against other employees, but never sharing information about herself. She was masterful at answering all questions with questions rather than statements.

Years later, control still is the name of her game. Control is her power. That’s what bullies are all about.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Are Workplace Bullies from Mars? They Can't Be from Venus.

It must be true that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Last week I talked about the destructive power of bullies in the workplace at two association meetings on consecutive days. The first group was 80 percent men; the second was 100 percent women. I had seen the same reactions at other presentations on this topic, but coming on consecutive days, the differences were blatant.

Of the first group, a few men commented during the question-and-answer period, but not on their personal experiences, and only one woman participated. However, later as they were leaving, the women stopped to talk with me. They did not want to talk about having been targets of bullies while the men were present, but preferred to wait until we could speak one on one.

At the second meeting, which was all women, there was very little hesitation about speaking up. Approximately 75 percent of the women indicated workplace bullies have targeted them. This is terrible but not surprising when we remember that the vast majority of male bullies and half of female bullies target women.

In Roman mythology, Mars is the God of War and Venus is the Goddess of Love. In workplaces and in the world, war seems to rule and there is too little love. What do you do to bring a little more love and consideration into your workplace? Let me know.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Friends and Allies: Antidotes to Bullying

A wonderful woman told me a success story this week.

A few years ago, when she still worked in corporate America, a friend and colleague in her workplace was targeted by an especially large and self-important man. As the bullying continued, the target’s friends and allies began to rally around her and looked for ways to stop the bully. For almost a year, working their way up the hierarchical ladder level by level, they presented the situation to superiors but couldn’t get responses. Eventually, they learned the tightest bottleneck was two levels below the CEO and was also his cousin.

Because the cousin intercepted all their messages and attempts, they decided they would try to reach the CEO directly, but with no success, until one day when the CEO personally answered his phone. He actually took time to listen to the caller’s story and agreed to investigate. The happy result was that the bully, the cousin, and two of their buddies were fired.

Research indicates that in 83 percent of cases, the target is driven out and the bully remains. This woman’s story of success is rare in the world of workplace bullying, and it shows what ongoing support of friends and allies can do.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bullying, Sports, & Losing: A Volatile Blend

So, tomorrow is the  long-awaited, history-making NFC Championship Game to be held in Glendale, Arizona.  At this point, local and visiting fans are revved up, drinking, and partying, as they will until the game ends and, inevitably, one side loses. That's when the trouble begins. That's when the "losers" with too much to drink and bullying tendencies start venting their anger and frustration. Who are the likely targets? Spouses and significant others, kids, and pets. If the Cardinals lose, it will be an especially busy night for local police.

A word of caution: If you are the target of a workplace bully who is one of the "losing" fans, avoid the bully Monday morning. He or she might still be in a foul mood.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Model for a Workplace Bullying Policy

Does your organization have a Workplace Bullying Policy? If not, it should. 

Look at the following quotes from Desert Ore Contracting's Workplace Bullying Policy. The policy is clear, to the point, and short--only one page. Why does Desert Ore have this concise and workable policy? Because it is located in western Australia, where workplace bullying is illegal, as it will be in the United States eventually.

The Company Takes a Stand
 "Desert Ore Contracting Pty. Ltd. is committed to providing a  positive working environment free from intimidation, ridicule and harassment. Desert Ore Contracting will not tolerate threatening behavior including bullying, harassment, intimidation, threats and physical violence in the workplace."

"Desert Ore Contracting considers workplace bullying unacceptable."

Defines the Problem
"Workplace bullying is unreasonable behavior that generally is persistent, and that demeans, intimidates and humiliates employees, either as individuals or as a group."

Spells Out Consequences for Organization
"Workplace bullying may cause the loss of trained and talented employees, reduce productivity and morale, and create legal risk."

States Their Premise
"Desert Ore Contracting believes that all employees should be able to work in an environment free of bullying. Managers and supervisors must ensure employees are not bullied."

Clarifies Action Plan  
"Desert Ore Contracting has issue resolution and investigation procedures  to deal with workplace bullying. Any reports of workplace bullying will be treated seriously and investigated promptly, confidentially and impartially."

"Desert Ore Contracting encourages all employees to report workplace bullying. Managers and supervisors must ensure that employees or witnesses who make complaints are not victimized."

States Consequences for Bullies
"Disciplinary action wilL be taken against anyone where a complaint of bullying is found. Disciplinary action may involve a formal warning, counseling, or dismissal."

Desert Ore's Workplace Bullying Policy could be a model for organizations in the United States. Knowing the cost and consequences of workplace bullying and that it will become a legal issue, why not set up a policy now as Desert Ore and many European organizations have had to do? 

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Workplace Bullies Are Bullies Outside Work, Too

Yesterday's Arizona Republic included two wire service fillers about mean, nasty behaviors toward one's neighbors. The first told of a 37-year-old man who tore open his neighbor's door with a chain saw. It seems that Robert Kane was upset because his neighbor's friend had parked in front of Kane's house.

The second story reported a man who had been sprinkling the driveways of neighbors he doesn't like with roof nails to cause flat tires. A policeman staking out a victim's home caught the perpetrator in the act of scattering nails. He was charged with harassment,  criminal tampering,  and mischief.

More than likely, these men are employed somewhere. How would you like be in the same workspace with either of them?

Workplace bullies are bullies before they darken the workplace door.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Organizational Change: A Hotbed for Bullying

What's going on in the organization where you work? Are major changes taking place? Organizational changes are widely associated  with bullying behaviors, and it makes sense.

Global competitiveness, downsizing, restructuring, intensified workloads, technological change,  mergers, and acquisitions create STRESS. Many researchers believe these organizational changes  are risk factors for bullying. Frankly,  I doubt employees need researchers to reveal this fact: Almost forty percent of employees are living it.

Stress within organizations is no exception to the rule that for every action, there's a reaction. One  chain reaction that occurs looks like this:

Greater Job Insecurity  >  Increased Stress  >  More Authoritarian Management Practices  >  Inappropriately Coercive Managerial Behaviors  >  Employees Less Likely to Challenge Aggressive Treatment  >  The Bullying Continues

This is an example of environmental factors, such as the depressed economy, interacting with organizational factors to contribute to workplace bullying. In the current economical environment,  I anticipate that bullying, which is already a worldwide epidemic, will continue to increase, and I strongly urge targeted employees to take defensive action to protect your careers and your health. I also urge supervisors and managers to evaluate how stress is affecting your behavior. 

As employees or employers, you can't afford workplace bullying.