How to Stop Workplace Bullies in Their Tracks

BY Kathy Crosett
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We all like to think we left our juvenile tendencies behind in middle school. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for everyone. In your department, some of your employees could be bullying others and that spells trouble for your culture and your bottom line. 

The Impact of Bullies

As a manager, you should suspect trouble if you notice one of your employees is suddenly turning out less work than before. They might also ask to work from home more often. If an employee starts using more sick time and generally appears apathetic, it’s time for you to pay attention.

Nobody wants to be a snitch. It’s likely that your bullied employee won’t come to talk to you about the problem. Sherri Gordon reminds managers that bullied team members often experience anxiety or panic attacks. Instead of concentrating on developing a new creative project, they’re busy trying to avoid the bully. Before long, they’ll take action. Typically, they’ll look for another job. In this economy, it won’t take long before you’re forced to hire and train a replacement.

Taking Action

If you observe a suspected bullying incident, follow up. For example, it’s not acceptable for an employee to berate a co-​worker because of a coffee spill in the office kitchen. Other bullying episodes may be more difficult to learn about, such as when one employee steals credit for the work someone else has done. Once you hear about this kind of activity, talk to the people involved. When you have documented evidence of bullying, take the details to your HR office.

If you don’t already have one in place, establish a workplace code of conduct. Remind every manager to discuss the code of conduct with team members. Plan to spend a lot of time addressing the bullying situation. More often than not, the bully will need to leave your organization. These experiences can be painful, and nothing that you want to repeat.

To avoid hiring a bully in the future, consider using a behavioral assessment tool during your screening process. For example, the Candidate Profiles Toxicity Indexing feature in SalesFuel COACH can alert you when an applicant appears to possess bullying traits. The Enforcer, for example, is the kind of applicant who will hold grudges and may be vindictive when co-​workers don’t perform tasks the way they think is best. Managers generally don’t hire based on the results of behavioral assessment alone, but you should pay attention to any red flags. The extra effort you take before you hire a person could save you plenty of time and expense in the long run.