One of the biggest obstacles that hinders leadership from intervening in workplace bullying is one simple question. Who does the leader believe, the target or the bully? Workplace bullying often becomes a she said/she said or a he said/he said scenario and leaders do not know who is telling the truth. This is understandable because aggression can be extremely subtle and covert making it difficult for leadership to detect. However, leaders need to understand persistent workplace aggression so they can decipher the truth about what is going on in their organization.

In the workplace, bullies use different words and rhetoric from that of a target. Leaders need to develop excellent active listening skills so they can know the difference. Bullies often use language that blames others for their behavior. The bully will accuse other people, mostly the target, for what is happening and they will not take responsibility for any part of the organizational dysfunction. 

When asked about mistreatment of their colleagues, aggressors use phrases such as, “I am the one who is being bullied.” “I am not responsible for bad behavior because I am a good professional.” Or, “there is nothing wrong with our environment, the target is just making waves.”

On the other hand, the target will use statements such as “What can I do to help change the environment?” “I just want the workplace improve, so what can I do to make it better.” Or, “I will do my part and change what I can.”

A bully considers themselves a victim and will make no attempt to fix the environment. Targets generally want to improve the workplace and their statements emphasize a desire to so. This is a key difference for leaders to understand as they intervene in the workplace. Bullies blame others and do not see anything wrong with the current environment. Targets want the workplace to improve and are willing to help with this process. Bullies want to maintain the status quo because they do not want to lose their power and control.

Workplace bullies are skilled liars and manipulators and will continue to do so when confronted with being an aggressor. Unfortunately, many leaders fall victim to the lies and fabrications of the bully and therefore, they tend to believe the bully over the target. However, leaders need to remember that they are responsible for the overall work environment and taking sides without thoroughly investigating all the facts is not acceptable. They need to take allegations of bullying seriously and fact check what the bully says because they will continue to be deceitful. Leaders to be diligent about finding out exactly what is happening in their organization. For example, if a target has accused the aggressor of sending inappropriate emails and the bully says that they did not, a leader can retrieve and view emails to verify who is telling the truth.

This week, I encourage you to actively listen to what is being said in your work environment and identify areas where you can intervene to ensure a positive, healthy, workplace.

If you or the organization you work for is experiencing persistent workplace aggression, please contact me at jankircher@jankircher.com or (320) 309-2360. You can also visit my website at www.jankircher.com. Help is out there.

The workplace bullying environment is extremely complicated and stopping it from happening is nearly next to impossible unless leaders intervene. Many leaders do not get involved because they just do not know what to do and many believe the bully over the target.  Leaders may not understand the complexity of the bullying culture and consequently believe that doing nothing is the best option. However, maintaining the status quo often re-victimizes the target making the overall environment worse. It ultimately shows support for the bully and intensifies their bad behavior. However, leaders can stop workplace bullying and guess what, it is not that difficult.

First, leaders must take this issue seriously.  Leaders tend to ignore allegations of bullying because it is easier for them. But, if they want bullying to stop, they need to believe that it can happen in their organization. Leaders who live in denial only perpetuate the problem of bullying. So, admitting there is a problem really is the first step to organizational recovery.

Leaders need to make sure that they are not involved in any bullying. If they are, they need to stop. A leader must role model the behavior they expect from their workers.  If a leader is a bully, it is likely that this conduct is being replicated by workers in the organization. So, leaders need to maintain a high standard of professional behavior to stop workplace bullying in their organization.

A leader must also communicate to their workers that bullying will not be tolerated. They need to make it clear to everyone, including the bully, the standard for professional behavior that is expected, the consequences for non-compliance and assurance that these standards will be upheld. 

Accountability is the difficult part for many leaders. They need to hold workers, especially the bully, to the guidelines they set, no matter what. This is a critical point in stopping workplace bullying and leadership should not underestimate the workplace bully. When an aggressor is confronted, they will push back and do almost anything so they are not held accountable. They have been controlling the environment and are not going not going to give this up easily. Thus, leaders need to expect the bully to challenge them and leaders need to be diligent about holding the bully accountable to follow professional behavior standards. This is vital for the leader to do no matter how difficult it is.

It is likely to be a rough go at the start, but bullying can be stopped when leaders intervene and demand that everyone maintains a high standard of professional conduct.

Contact me today at jankircher@jankircher.com or (320) 309-2360 to learn more about how to effectively intervene when workplace bullying rears its ugly head. You can also visit my website at www.jankircher.com. Help is out there.

Being a target of workplace bullying is devastating especially to one’s professional life. In the beginning, a target just wonders what is going on and often seeks a rational explanation for the way they are being treated. They might even ask for advice and suggestions from their co-workers. The target’s professional behavior basically stays the same.

However, over time, the target’s performance at work does change because of the continued attacks on their professional conduct. This is partially because of the intensification of the bullies strikes and their continued determination to harm the target’s status and reputation. 

Target’s also tend to internalize what is happening to them. They begin to question their work and professionalism based on the propaganda and lies that the bully is perpetrating. Targets question their ability to do their job and become hypersensitive about the quality of their work. The accusations that are being made often become a self-fulfilling prophecy for the target as they over compensate to prove what the bully says is wrong.

For example, Patricia is a nurse at the local hospital and had an exemplary record including written comments about the quality of her paperwork. A few months ago, Patricia started to get bullied by her supervisor. Her bully made complaints and accusations about Patricia’s paperwork. These criticisms included Patricia’s inability to get her paperwork done in a timely fashion and her paperwork contained inaccurate assessments. Overtime, Patricia lost confidence in her ability to do her paperwork.

To improve her paperwork and combat the bullying, Patricia started to write longer and more thorough reports including more details in her assessments. She proofread her paperwork two and three times to ensure that she was not doing the things her bullying was accusing her of. 

These modifications in her behavior impacted her ability to get her work done in a timely fashion.  Patricia started taking more time to get her paperwork done because she was concerned about the quality of it. Her attempts to resist the bullying became a self-fulfilling prophecy for her. Her bully made accusations that her paperwork was not done in a timely fashion and in the end, her paperwork was not done in a timely fashion.

The best strategy for targets is to maintain a high quality of professionalism and work. In a workplace bullying environment, this is much more difficult to do than it seems. However, it is vital that targets understand that they are being bullied for no reason and most of the accusations that are being have no merit. So instead of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, targets need to continue to be the quality worker they have always been. 

This week, continue to do your best at work. If you know someone is being bullied, show your support by complimenting them on their work.

If you or the organization you work for is experiencing persistent workplace aggression, please contact me at jankircher@jankircher.com or (320) 309-2360. You can also visit my website at www.jankircher.com. Help is out there.