Just cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town. – George Carlin
In a Peanuts cartoon Lucy demanded that Linus change TV channels, threatening him with her fist if he didn’t. “What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?” asks Linus.
“These five fingers,” says Lucy. “Individually they’re nothing but when I curl them together like this in a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold.”
“Which channel do you want?” asks Linus. Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, “Why can’t you guys get organized like that?”
While good organization is needed and commended in your office and place of business – bullying isn’t.
In trying to understand the rise in workplace bullying Shana Lebowitz wrote a piece in USA Today (http://usat.ly/1fYbxKB) and pointed out that according to a 2011 survey half of the employees said they were treated rudely at least once a week. Many said the experience of bullying had caused them to develop health issues such as anxiety and depression. Some had even left their jobs.
Bullying is a serious concern on many levels. Much has been written about being a victim of bullying, but not enough about or to the bullies. Bullying is an unfortunate issue that leaders must recognize and deal with.
Some people may pass off their bullying behavior with “it’s just my personality” not realizing that the person on the other end sees it quite different. What are some of the common bullying behaviors? What are some of the warning signs to look for? Here are five for your consideration.
You are oblivious to your meanness.
It may not be overtly intentional (although it might) but the words you choose and the way you vocalize them can rub others the wrong way. While you may feel you are only expressing the truth as you understand it, it’s not what you say but how you say it that leaves the lasting impression. Choose your words carefully and verbalize them with discretion.
You are a master manipulator.
You work behind the scenes and attempt to orchestrate things in your favor or desired outcome. It may be to freeze someone else out or get what you want by pitting one person or group against another. This type of behavior drives wedges and destroys trust. The philosophy is driven by a jealousy that says if you can’t get what you want then neither will the other person.
You are a gossip and a busybody.
While you may think you are just keeping up with the latest office news you might want to stop and consider the consequences. There is no virtue in gossiping about others and being up in everyone else’s business. If you can’t be trusted not to interfere with other people’s personal business what gives you the right to believe you can be trusted with company business?
You are a control freak.
Similar in style to the manipulator your objective is not so much about the performance of others as it is control. You are overbearing with expectations and demands and it’s simply a way to throw your weight around. If you are a leader who is displaying this type of behavior you only have a following because of your title and nothing more.
You are two-faced.
This is a common characteristic of a bully. You pretend to be one thing in public but are something else in private. You confide to a colleague in private and cut their legs out from under them in public. The end game is that it’s all about you and people are pawns.
Now that a few bullying behaviors have been identified it’s time for some honest evaluation. Have you in the past or are you now displaying any of the above mentioned behaviors? Do you notice that people tend to avoid you at work? Have you taken stock of how you treat others and look for ways to improve your people skills? Would you consider asking for help in identifying areas that need improvement?
Until you take ownership of a bullying past or present then being a bully will likely be a part of your future. Take steps now to stop it. You have a lot to lose if you don’t and everything to gain if you get it right.
What do you say?
© 2013 Doug Dickerson
Workplace Bullying Institute: http://www.workplacebullying.org/
Not in Our Town: http://www.niot.org/front
If you enjoy reading Doug’s leadership insights you will especially enjoy reading his books, Leaders Without Borders & Great Leaders Wanted. Visit Doug’s website at www.dougsmanagementmoment.blogspot.com to order your copies today!