/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/bonnie-low-logo.png 0 0 Bonnie Low-Kramen /wp-content/uploads/2020/08/bonnie-low-logo.png Bonnie Low-Kramen2022-05-11 13:10:132022-05-11 15:24:19Toxic! How to End Workplace Bullying Now by Bonnie Low-Kramen
Words to Say to a Bully
During an interview that the candidate felt was going very well, she said to the executive, “So, I heard you are a yeller. If you offer me this job and I accept it, you cannot yell at me. No yelling at me alone or in a meeting.” Then, she watched his shocked reaction, at first. After a moment, the executive said, “I can agree to that. When can you start?”
The executive kept his word and did not yell at his new assistant. However, he did continue yelling at everyone else. The assistant lasted three months.
Workplace bullies believe that they are solving a problem when they act out with verbal abuse, physical assault, cyberbullying, and passive-aggressive bombs. Clearly, the bullies are out of touch with how people are really responding to them.
Targets and witnesses to workplace bullying call them unhinged psychopaths, monsters, and devils wearing designer clothes. On the outside, staffers may be smiling but, on the inside, they are being eaten alive and traumatized. It’s happened to far too many staffers and in the highly stressed remote workplace, it is happening even more. Contrary to what some might think, WFH has not made workplace bullying go away.
Bullying is the ultimate workplace lose/lose situation. Most people don’t confront bullies out of fear of making the bully act out even more. Yes, that happens sometimes. However, the opposite can be true.
What can managers and staffers do to keep their sanity and their jobs? And, how can we stop workplace bullying before it even starts?
Spoiler: Unlike in the popular movie “Nine to Five,” the solution is not found in stringing up the bully and holding him hostage.
Here are 5 ways that actually work to handle bullies.
- See the Red Flags Be alert to red flags about bullies from day one and don’t ignore them. In the interview, a candidate can ask, How are you on your worst day? Also, a candidate can find out how many people have come before them? If an executive has had 10 assistants in 2 years, that’s a major red flag. Don’t be afraid to ask why? Then, watch and listen.
- Break the Silence & the Cycle Psychology teaches us that abused people often abuse others and it can often be unconscious. What breaks the vicious cycle of oblivious toxicity is having the difficult conversations to raise awareness and build respect, according to LHH, a leading talent solutions firm. This means speaking up to the bully directly, calmly, and without apology. Silence is the enemy.
- Document offensive/abusive behaviors. Specificity matters. Saying “she is always mean to me” won’t help. Saying “On March 9, she called me a moron and threw a pen at me at the staff meeting” will help. Keep notes of who else was in the room to be witnesses. HR and authorities will evaluate bullying by frequency and severity of the toxic behaviors.
- The Words to Say One of my students had her executive take her head in his hands as he shook it from side to side saying, “Did you forget to bring your brain to work today?”
Be ready to act immediately following an act of bullying. Stay calm, direct, and clear. Practice saying the following words out loud in order to get more comfortable speaking them. Practice decreases the stress because you feel more prepared and ready for when the bullying occurs.
Words to Say to a Bully
“We need to talk about what just happened in the meeting. No one speaks to me like that. It is not productive.”
“Ouch. You may not be aware of this, but what you just said really hurt my feelings. You have a wife and a daughter. What would you say if they told you that their executive said to them what you just said to me?”
Bullies learn quickly who they can push and who they can’t. After you say what you need to say, stop talking. Look your bully in the eye and wait. If staff wants to stay at the company and come out whole, targets must be ready to act on bullying behavior and also be ready to walk away.
- Go to HR. While going to HR with documentation is an option, what I have seen is far more effective is immediate response from the target to the bully. The question becomes whether a company truly has a zero-tolerance policy for bullying that has teeth in it. If it does, then the HR team is empowered to do an official investigation and hold the bully accountable. Firing is not necessarily the first answer. Coaching is.
Too many in our workplace are traumatized for life by bullies. Let’s keep in mind that those young schoolyard and cyber bullies who are permitted to bully when they are teens end up growing up to sometimes run offices.
The bottom line is that no job is worth tolerating any form of workplace bullying and in 2022, staff is more than willing to walk away. Holding bullies accountable is the only way the behaviors stop. The price we are paying is far too high to allow these disrespectful and destructive behaviors to continue.
I am Bonnie Low-Kramen, TEDx speaker, author of “Be the Ultimate Assistant” and trainer of Executive Assistants all over the world. As part of my work to build ultimate business partnerships, I was featured in a Forbes online cover story. In the research for my second book about the workplace to be published in 2022, I have had over 1,500 conversations with assistants, leaders, HR professionals, recruiters, and business school professors in 14 countries and 38 states. I am excited to work with you towards building your ultimate workplace. Click here to set up a time to speak with me about your training needs which can be delivered virtually or in person.