Do you ever wonder what happened to the playground bully who used to rub your nose in the dirt at recess every day? There’s a chance that these kinds of individuals could be running amok in your organization – possibly even in leadership positions. If this is an issue in your organization, you should be asking yourself what you’re going to do about it.
We all know there’s a fine line between being demanding in order to inspire employees to do their best, and being a bully. Workers are increasingly aware that they have rights and that your competitors might have a better culture. If you don’t take visible steps to reign in the tyrant who is always screaming at people or the bully who publicly berates team members, you could soon be watching your top employees head to the exits or their attorneys’ offices.
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, John Simons cites statistics which show that employee performance and creativity drops when they feel bullied. Bad behavior can range from yelling, to making coarse remarks about someone else’s appearance, to making sexual advances. The latest research shows at least two-thirds of employees believe they’ve been bullied at work. In many cases, the bullying involved being treated rudely by a colleague or supervisor.
The best way to put a stop to this kind of workplace behavior is to formally and officially describe acceptable behavior. Simons reports on one law firm that displays a plaque with the ‘firm’s 10-point code of civility’ in a public location. You may decide to do something different – perhaps have your leadership team agree on a set of principles and communicate them to the rank and file.
Taking this initial action is just the first step. Any code of conduct or civility should be written down and accessible at all times. Employees might need to be encouraged to speak up. They often don’t feel safe talking to their immediate supervisors or an internal person about bullying issues. If necessary, hire outside help to identify suspected offenders and make a public display out of showing them the door. These definitive steps will show your employees you’re serious about maintaining a civil workplace.