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 email@example.com or (320) 309-2360. You can also visit my website at www.jankircher.com. Help is out there.