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Are You the Workplace Bully?

Are You the Workplace Bully?

The phrase workplace bully holds many meanings and comes in many forms. Just about every office has one – that person who makes life around the office challenging, toxic, or even downright frustrating. Sometimes it’s not even on purpose. Workplace bullies are distracting – they derail performance and can impact the organization’s ability to deliver on its mission. Sure – sometimes their “bully nature” may be known to drive work to completion. They may even be very effective at their job. But alienating people and making enemies is never a good long term solution for success. Workplace bullies can cost your organization time, money, and productivity.

 "The serial bully, who in my estimation accounts for about one person in thirty in society, is the single most important threat to the effectiveness of organizations, the profitability of the industry, the performance of the economy, and the prosperity of society." - Tim Field 

So are you the workplace bully – are you working with or for a bully? Here are the 3 biggest workplace bullying behaviors I’ve seen:

  • The 90/10 bully: I call it the 90/10 bully because these bullies are never happy. Nothing is ever good enough. You can do 9 things right yet 1 thing wrong, even slightly wrong, and these bullies will only focus on that 1 thing wrong. To hell with the 9 things right. They rarely if ever give positive feedback and encouragement, but they sure do love to nitpick about the negative. Good managers and leaders address the good and the bad, the positive and the negative. They encourage, coach, teach – they don’t just nitpick for flaws. I mean, really; who wants to work for a “Debbie Downer” anyway!
  • The blame game bully: I call it the blame game bully because these bullies never take any responsibility. They’re usually blaming everyone but themselves. Often accountability is a foreign concept to these folks. It’s easier to point out what someone else did wrong than own up to the fact they may have played a part in the outcome or output they find unsatisfactory. I’ve found this is the most prominent bully in the workplace. Probably because people don’t like to have the finger pointed at them – so they point it at someone else first. The fact of the matter is – if you’re responsible for leading a team of people or even for creating deliverables as part of a team – their mistakes are your mistakes, regardless of finger-pointing. You want to be successful – help others to learn and succeed - don’t try and throw them under the bus.
  • The argumentative bully: Do I really need to explain this one? You know who I am talking about. No matter what you say they’ll say the opposite. The sky is blue…no it’s white. This is one of the most destructive of bullying behaviors because it inhibits productivity upwards of 100%. For every minute spent with an argumentative bully, it’s costing you at least 5 minutes of productivity. And after the disagreement has ended, one must cool down to relax and refocus prior to getting back to work. Not conducive to high performance!

So a bit of advice on why not to be a bully leader or why not to tolerate a workplace bully:

  • People will never respect you. People may do what you want if you bully them, they may be intimidated by you, though they will most likely not respect you. Without mutual respect, you usually can’t have an honest and trusting relationship – the type that is really productive both personally and professionally.
  • Bullied people are usually not happy people. Unhappy people are usually not engaged people. Lower employee morale and lower employee engagement contribute to lower customer satisfaction and lower customer satisfaction contributes to declining profits.
  • Reputation is important for a quality leader. If you have a reputation for being a hardnosed, detail orientated, assertive go-getter who still listens to others' ideas and values and recognizes a job well done, that’s not necessarily a bad reputation - go you for being a role model! Actually, some people thrive under that type of leadership. However, if you have a reputation for being a self-serving, obnoxious, intolerant, tyrannical leader then most likely your bad reputation will precede you. If you have a bad reputation, good luck attracting the best and brightest talent to want to follow you and help you succeed.

Guilty of being a bully? Stuck working with one (or two…)? Don’t fret. Here are 3-ways to improve your behaviors and interactions to prevent lost productivity.

  • Breathe: Yes, I know we all do that anyway, but I mean really breathe. Just stop and take a few of those yoga style deep breathes.
  • Communication: I know you’re probably thinking – well of course I communicate. Yes, we all do, both verbally and non-verbally. We also all have distinctive communication styles and preferences.  In short, if you feel your button is getting pushed as someone is communicating with you, tell them.
  • Feedback: Giving and receiving feedback is imperative to making sure your hot buttons don’t get pushed and is imperative to helping to not push others – it’s a cycle.  And per those who think bullying others is cool – they won’t think it’s so cool when it’s the ones they’re bullying who they end up reporting to in the workplace!

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.”- Jim Rohn 

Want to read some more about how to deal with your buttons getting pushed? Check out our blog: Are Your Buttons Getting Pushed? 3 Tips On What You Can Do. Even if you aren’t a workplace bully you’re bound to encounter one –  these are 3 key-ways to improve your style, make your work life a bit better, and help to improve how responsive, productive, and profitable your organization can become. About Scott Span, MSOD, CSM: is CEO at Tolero Solutions. As a people strategist, leadership coach, and change and transformation specialist, his work is focused on people. Through his consulting and training work he supports clients to survive and thrive through change and transition and create people-focused cultures and a great employee experience. Through his coaching work, he supports people willing to dig deeper to identify and overcome what’s holding them back, change behaviors, accelerate performance and achieve their goals. Email | Website | LinkedIn | Twitter | Blog FacebookYouTube | Instagram _______________________________________________________________________ *All Rights Reserved. Reproduction, publication, and all other use of any and all of this content is prohibited without the authorized consent of Tolero Solutions and the author.