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A bully in the workplace has no place!

A jerk, a bully and an asshole… Don’t they all mean the same? By now you have most likely read the most recent post by Ms. Lisa Pinion, asshole is not a protected class.” If not, it’s a must read. Before I write my follow up article, I will start with just a moment to recap hers.

Ms. Lisa Pinion, President and founder of Pinion Solutions Group, HR consulting firm wrote an article about not having a protected class for being an asshole in the workplace.  Asshole is not a protected class.

Ever have one of those days where the asshole in the office just seems to find you at “THAT” particular moment? After a few of those moments, Ms. Pinion wrote about something we all think about, why does that one person who makes the entire culture toxic, get away with acting like an asshole?

While meeting with Ms. Pinion, over a cup of coffee, we had a great conversation about her article. And she allowed me to interview her and write a follow up to her article. We discussed the “real issue”… Being that, too many companies continue to tolerate this “asshole like” behavior. The key word being…“tolerate”. What neither of us understands is “why.” Why do companies tolerate this type of behavior, when they clearly don’t have to? Let’s first get the clear definition of some key words, from the Marriam-Webster’s dictionary:

  1. Tolerate toler·ate- allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.
  1. Jerk – definition a stupid person or a person who is not well-liked or who treats other people badly.
  2. Asshole definition – Asshole is a vulgar (dirty) slang word. Besides the literal meaning, it’s a common word for a jerk or idiot. If you call someone an asshole, they’re probably doing something not just stupid and annoying, but mean.
  3. bully1 – Bully use superior strength or intimidation or to force (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.

No matter what word you chose to define an asshole, the meaning behind the word is someone’s actions are meant to be hurtful. The tendencies in both definitions, each have the potential to create bullying behavior and as a result, creates a hostile environment.

A bully in the workplace has no place.

Typically when we think of bullying, we think of kids on a playground at recess. Not today, bullying is much worse in schools. Statics of bullying in schools is astronomical. Those being bullied are forced to accept the bully’s behavior. Instead of having difficult conversations with our children and addressing bullying, the result, in the USA, 20% of high school students say they have seriously considered suicide within the last 12 months. 7% have actually committed suicide because of traditional bullying situations and 6% of suicide from cyber bullying situations. 160,000 students throughout the USA stay home every day because they are being bullied. 28% of children between 12-18 years old reported being bullied. In the workplace, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety Health (NIOSH) (Sauter, et al.,1990), there is a loss of employment amounting to $19 billion and a drop in productivity of $3 billion due to workplace bullying.

Per Ms. Pinion,

“Most people focus on the profit and revenue that an asshole individual can bring to the bottom line while at the same time, ignoring and compromising the rest of the people.”

Is this a culture you want to be part of? If you said no, ask yourself why as a manager and/or an employee will you tolerate this behavior from anyone? It comes down to a few reasons why managers and/or employees  tolerate this behavior in the workplace:

  1. Management doesn’t know about the situation. What if it is management that is doing the bullying? (August issue, When management is the bully)
  2. Management knows about it, yet they choose to ignore it. Hoping it will go away on it’s own or it will work itself out.
  3. Management really just doesn’t know what to do about it, they don’t know how to address it, they don’t know how to stop it. So the behavior goes unaddressed.

Not taking the initiative to learn about what to do about bullying becomes a culture of ignorance and tolerance. As a result, the culture becomes toxic, unproductive, increase in turnover, unsatisfied customers, and loss of revenue.

As we continued to discuss the real issue of people in the workplace really being more about not knowing what to do about the bullying behavior. We discussed that we may not be able to stop the bully from bullying, but we can take initiative in how we respond to their behavior. The way we do this is by learning some key things about the bully. Such as:

  1. The reason why a bully bullies is because they can. This behavior was learned as a young child. Most bullies were bullied themselves. For example, think of it as a child having a tantrum to get his/her way. What does a parent do to make this stop? They give into the child. The child learns this behavior is acceptable. The bully does the same thing; they use intimidation to get what they want because they want their way.
  2. Understand that the bully has some very deep-rooted self-esteem issues that were never addressed. Again because they themselves were bullied. The bully becomes manipulative, to make others feel useless, unwanted, embarrassed and even threatened. The bully feels better by hurting someone else.
  3. Understand that the bully, whether in grade school or at work, they learn to manage others by intimidation. Typically this behavior makes them feel empowered.

Ms. Pinion stated,

  “that we have to understand that the bully has not evolved. The bully was     bullied him/herself. The way they get their way is by using force. They unfortunately did not have a role model to teach them otherwise; such as using motivation, rather than attacking someone is more effective. Further, there is always that one person who makes a pivotal moment in your life where bullies didn’t have that. You have to kind-of feel sorry for them.”

How to be aware of this behavior can start with education through effective training. The training should include how to:

  1. Identify appropriate behavior
  2. Correct poor behavior in a positive manner
  3. Tools on how to address the situation productively
  4. Know when this behavior is egregious enough to terminate
  5. Define your company’s culture; if you have the core values posted on the wall, do you walk the talk?
  6. Take an assessment of your employees

Don’t procrastinate, start by having a conversation with us: 847-401-0014

A bully in the workplace has no place.

Watch for our next article on how to identify the bully in the interviewing process

August issue – When Management is the Bully