Yesterday’s New York Times article, The Bullying Culture of Medical School, should shake up everyone involved in the struggle to curb bullying. 13 years ago UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine incorporated policies and prevention techniques to curb bullying. Surveys in the 90s showed that 85% of third year medical students believed they were being mistreated. UCLA’s effort to stop and prevent bullying was broad and encompassing. Continue reading
In the struggle to combat workplace bullying it’s important to admit that we worker bees aren’t always perfect. Weak managers can quickly lose the respect of their team only to watch them spiral hopelessly out of control and even mob up on their leader. In the interesting Businessweek article below, Jeff Schmitt tells bosses how to “kick ass” without being psychologically abusive:
A guide to reading your employees the riot act: Time to lay down the law? Some points to consider before you do
“If I go down, you’re all going down with me.”
Our manager had finally crossed the line with this comment. She had delivered fire-and-brimstone speeches before. But this was different. Suddenly, she wasn’t Vince Lombardi Light, looking to get back to basics. Instead she had degenerated into a narcissistic despot who’d stoop to using us as human shields. She was passing the buck and covering herself. She may have considered it motivation. We saw it as a meltdown.
At some point, every manager must unload a kick-in-the-ass speech. Even the best teams get cocky and careless; they forget what’s important and what got them there. But here’s a reality check: If you have to deliver “The Speech,” you’re probably failing as a manager. Before you let loose with the grand oration, maybe you need a wake-up call. Sure, there’s truth in the adage about tearing people down to build them back up. But getting your team back on track requires more than threats and cursing. Want to really get their attention? Read the following recommendations.
1. Consider if The Speech is merited
Sure, you’re disappointed with performance. Before you go Knute Rockne, consider if the situation warrants an explosion … or coaching. Are you nearing a tipping point where financials or expectations dictate an intervention? Is there a broader motif, such as slow service, that could spill into critical areas such ascustomer retention? Should this diatribe be public and include everyone or could it be handled privately with certain members? Most important, what do you want to achieve? Bottom line: Weigh the offense against your options and the desired response.
2. Come with a plan
You’re probably tempted to graphically challenge their commitment and competence. But you’ll only look clumsy if you ad-lib The Speech. You want your team squirming, stomachs sinking, minds racing. That requires strategy: a bolo-punch opening, unassailable arguments, and a call to action that echoes for weeks. Even more, it demands rehearsing to get tone, pace, posture, and gestures just right. Fact is, you only get one or two speeches before your team tunes you out. Make this one count.
3. Don’t fly off the handle
A loose cannon. That’s how you’ll be labeled if you can’t control your emotions. They’ll snicker and lampoon you to everyone within earshot. Your anger, however genuine, must be calibrated for effect. Before you venture into the lion’s den, step back, breathe, and relax. Remember, an icy resolve often commands more attention than a rant. A pause can be as lethal as a pejorative.
4. Prep them
Surprise! Surprise! No, your speech shouldn’t come as a shock. In fact, it should hark back to previous fireside chats, where you focused on listening and understanding. Back then, you expected that your coaching would establish how important the task at hand was. But the time for such niceties has passed. A hands-on approach is needed. They can’t say they didn’t see it coming.
5. Cite specific examples
The Speech is no time for generalizations. Be specific: What actions and underlying sentiments are creating tensions and why are they unproductive and inappropriate? How has it affected customers and other departments? Of course, outline how these shenanigans have hit the radar of those above you — and what consequences will follow if they continue.
6. Keep it short
Your job is to shake them up and leave a lasting impression. The less said, the better. Let their imaginations run wild; it’ll keep your message on top. Don’t go off on tangents or pile on, either. It will only dilute your message. Cut quickly and deeply, then move on.
7. Set expectations
You’ve identified the problem. Now what? Start by leaving no ambiguity with the takeaways. Specify exactly what you expect, along with when and how. Don’t forget to spell out the repercussions for failing to meet these expectations. Hammer home that the time for second chances has long passed.
8. Monitor your own behavior
Their eyes will probably glaze over during your speech. Why? They’ve been mirroring your behavior. Is it any wonder you haven’t been getting through? Address it in your speech. Accept some blame and summarize how you’ll change. Then hold yourself as accountable as you hold your team for the result.
9. Rebuild bridges
You go to battle with the people you have, not necessarily the ones you want. Afterward, your team will make excuses and entertain mutiny. That’s why you need to quickly reel them back. Reach out, one by one, to tutor, praise, and motivate. You’ve shared what needed to be said. Now convey through action that there are no hard feelings. Don’t let them confuse you with the message.
10. Follow up
You’ve thrown down the gauntlet. But the weeks following The Speech will ultimately determine its success. That’s why you need to stay on the issue. Address it in interactions and meetings and constantly collect results. And when the time is right, celebrate. You may have devised the plan, but your team will ultimately win the battle.
Although OSHA “encourages” States to enact guidelines to prevent violence in the workplace “there are currently no specific standards for workplace violence.” So far only 25 States have actually done this leaving half the country’s workers unprotected. [Download New York’s recent law here.]
One type of violence is what most of us know as ‘going postal.’ Felix P. Nater retired as a postal inspector with 30 years experience and is currently the President of Nater Associates, a security management consulting firm specialzing in workplace security & workplace violence prevention. Here’s an article he wrote about the role bullying plays.
“The Root Cause”
A lot has been written about the workplace bully and so my approach will deal with the assessment and analytical process of workplace violence. During my years as a Postal Inspector on a Workplace Violence Interdiction Team in New York, I quickly gained an appreciation for the value of determining the “root causes” or “contributing factors” of incidents of Bullying and Bully Tactics. In all of the assessments conducted involving bullying behavior “root causes” and “contributing factors” enabled the investigative process to determine that in all cases the victim retaliated escalating the bullying to a physical altercation or threats of bodily harm. The bully created such an emotional response in his victim over time sufficiently enough to create a spontaneous response.
As such, I’ve come to define that Bullying is harassing, intimidating, offensive, degrading, demoralizing and humiliating to the victims: employee, co-workers and supervisors alike. The behavior was patterned, unfavorable, unwarranted and reasonably inappropriate for the workplace setting. While the individual Bully was obviously at fault, management for its failure to curb the behavior contributed to the hostility by creating a permissive environment that empowered the Bully. Sensing that he would not be sanctioned he acted with impunity. The unfortunate reality is that the Bully exists to fill a void; some thought his antics were funny; others relished in the abuse and banter; if it was racially or ethnically charged comments it had appeal to the bigots. As uncanny is it sounds most victims and witnesses interviewed after the fact were disgusted at knowing how long they were subjected to the abuse and how much they tolerated without intervention until the victim retaliated. It just happens over time like the diagnosis of cancer.
WHO ENGAGES IN BULLYING TACTICS?
- An employee
- Customers and employees
- Employees and Clients
- Employees and Vendors
- Supervisors or manager
During the many threat assessments conducted, I learned that Bullying is a form of workplace entertainment by some and an accepted part of the workplace culture by others. You the victim must be willing to resist the victimization and confront the individual to avoid the potential for escalation ultimately leading to the unfortunate spontaneous and subsequent consequences for engaging in a fight. It’s easy to be intimidated by this behavior, it is designed to control you. However, don’t blame yourself for being the victim of Bullying. Report the Bullying immediately! It should not be sanctioned and should be addressed under your company’s Workplace Violence Prevention Policy.
WHAT CONTRIBUTES TO BULLYING?
Because Bullying is a pattern of abuse it must be dealt with immediately. The permissive environment is the dwelling place of this type of behavior. That it might be part of an organization’s culture is all the more reason for intervention. Left unabated, it creates the impression by the Bully that the culture condones it. Because employees are fearful of reporting the bully out of fear of retaliation, incidents go unreported. The lack of appropriate intervention by the supervisor or manager is especially the case when the employee is a good worker or a key individual in the business. The fact that the Bully is a supervisor or manager invokes fear and distrust in managements ability to curtail the threat sensing he would be sealing his fate if he makes a complaint. This sort of response is common and often came out during the interviews of victims and witnesses.
I am reminded of an article I read entitled: The Disruptive Clinician and the Impact on Patient Care, Lee G. Shanley, B.S., Director of Safety and Security Services at Nassau County Medical Center which appeared in the NCMC Proceedings Journal, fall 1996. He emphasizes the manipulative and controlling power superiors wield on the subordinates. He wrote, Medical staff who continually act out in a disruptive manner towards visitors, patients and other staff members undermine the very fabric of the healthcare facility. When an individual displays verbal abuse, open or veiled hostility, or threatening actions towards associates, the result more often than not is compromised patient carethis abuse if not addressed, and allowed to continue unchecked, will more than likely lead to a major patient care error. As a result of the stress caused by the situation, associates and other healthcare providers may tend to avoid contact with the offending individual whenever possible.
Bullying behavior can range from subtle to more obvious behaviors. Here are some Ive uncovered during the investigative process: name calling, innuendos, insults, offensive language, racial and sexual jokes, yelling and screaming, inappropriate comments about an individuals dress, life style, medical condition or general appearances, picking on family members, slander and belittling criticism, intentional isolation of an employee by the supervisor from normal interaction, training and career enhancement opportunities, overwork, unnecessary pressures, establishing impossible deadlines, making the person feel in adequate by reducing the workload, creating a feeling of uselessness and even hopelessness, undermines the work performance or effort, deliberately denying essential work-related information and data or even giving incorrect information, unexplained job changes, meaningless assignments or tasks beyond your skill level or ability, failure to give adequate acknowledgement or to recognize when due, tampering with your work products, reports, tools and equipment, teasing or regularly making you the brunt of pranks and practical jokes, intentional/unreasonable delays in processing requests for leave or vacation, requests for assignments, training or resolution of pay issues are but a few root cause or contributing factors which lead otherwise innocent victims to assault or threaten another in response to the Bullying (harassment, intimidation and abuse) Tactic.
THE EFFECTS OF BULLING ON THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE BUSINESS
Managing the workplace environment is an ongoing process, which goes beyond the production and services responsibility of supervisors and managers. I found that supervisors who failed to control hostile behavior contributed to safety hazards, increased injury compensation claims, lost workdays due to increased absenteeism, poor morale and potential civil actions against the business and individual for creating a hostile environment.
On the other hand, I found that the victim employee including the supervisors suffer from increased stress levels, anxiety and panic attacks, complaints of loss of sleep, bad health, impaired ability to make decisions, an incapacity to work, loss of confidence and self-esteem, reduced production, performance and efficiency, become accident prone and creates unsafe conditions as a result. In many cases the employee lost self-confidence and ability to cope in the workplace. Proper assessment and intervention is necessary if employees are to believe they will not become victims.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT THE BULLY?
- Document the activity when it happens if you are not willing to report or confront the individual at this point.
- Keep a record of the details of the type of activity and any potential witnesses for future reference.
- Report the behaviors to management at some point.
- Confront the Bully. Tell him/her you resent and object to the behavior.
- Ask the Bully to stop or you will report him.
- If you feel uncomfortable initiating contact go to your shop steward, supervisor or some other intermediary.
- Never internalize the behavior otherwise festering will occur causing you to retaliate in frustration or even worst, become ill as a result.
WHAT CAN MANAGEMENT DO TO HELP?
- If you dont have a Workplace Violence Crime Prevention Policy start working on one as soon as possible.
- If you have a Workplace Violence Crime Prevention Policy insure it addresses the Bullying Tactics and the Bully.
- Your policy should contain a caution statement on what the Bullying behavior is.
- Employees should receive periodic Workplace Violence Prevention Awareness Training.
- Supervisors should be trained in issues relating to managing the workplace environment and conflict resolution.
- Employees should be encouraged to report all incidents without attribution or retaliation.
- Employees should be encouraged to pursue alternative means shop steward/intermediary) to confront the Bully.
- Provide for conflict mediation and intervention by EAP and/or the Security Director.
- Conduct comprehensive Threat Assessments of each situation to prevent further escalation.
- Institute progressive disciplinary procedures to address the repeat or ongoing Bully.
- Create an environment where such behavior is not tolerated and will not be condoned.
When in doubt pick up the phone and call an expert or visit his website at http://www.naterassociates.com.
About the Author: Felix P. Nater is the President of Nater Associates, a security management consulting firm specialzing in workplace security & workplace violence prevention. Felix retired as a postal inspector with 30 years experience. Republished with his permission.
Our Bully Pulpit combines the power of original documentary film and the reach of multiple media platforms to spark a movement that exposes the devastating effects of workplace bullying. Accurate information, reliable sources, new voices and new ideas are all housed within the new interactive home at ourbullypulpit.com.
Catherine Mattice, president of Civility Partners, LLC, a consulting firm focused on eradicating bullying and other negative behaviors, says, “There are a lot of consultants, therapists, professionals and targets with a point of view and lessons learned to share. Our Bully Pulpit provides a means for them to be heard and to learn from each other. Bullying can only be eradicated if we all work together.”
Real People/Reel Stories of Workplace Bullying
No longer a silent epidemic in the U.S., the workplace bullying issue is increasingly being exposed as a devastating mental, emotional and financial burden for both employees and employers. Founded by documentary filmmaker Beverly Peterson, Our Bully Pulpit provides a forum for informed discussion, will tackle misconceptions about workplace harassment, and will provide tools for legislative and institutional change. Opportunities for experts and the general public—including those most directly affected—to join the dialogue, are the cornerstone of Our Bully Pulpit’s mission to encourage trans-media conversation and action. Last year Ms. Peterson presented portions of this project at the prestigious 2010 7th International Conference on Workplace Bullying & Harassment in Cardiff, Wales.
“For over four years I’ve been using my skills as a filmmaker to tell powerful and emotional stories of victims of workplace bullying,” says Ms. Peterson. “I’m deeply moved by the conversations that the films have inspired and am expanding my efforts to illuminate more aspects of this damaging issue while at the same time providing a portal for journalists, legislators, practitioners, researchers and targets of workplace abuse to come together.”
Documentary Footage, Resources and a Cross-Media Digital Platform
Currently, the first of nine web installments of Ms. Peterson’s original documentary, “What Really Killed Kevin Morrissey?” is accessible on ourbullypulpit.com, and the remaining installments will be rolled out on the web over the next several months. The documentary footage examines the controversial story that made headlines one year ago: the suicide of Kevin Morrissey of literary journal Virginia Quarterly Review and allegations that his boss and editor, Ted Genoways, had bullied him. The first installment’s launch was featured in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education written by, Robin Wilson, the first journalist to report about Kevin’s suicide. “What Really Killed Kevin Morrissey?” illuminates and sparks debate on the complicating factors woven into the fabric of workplace bullying, turning the conventional conversation around bullying and harassment on its head.
“It’s a ‘transmedia’ approach. By utilizing every available platform to us, including film, the Internet and digital tools like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Wikipages, we can dig a little deeper and make real progress in a shorter amount of time,” added Ms. Peterson.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the anti-workplace bullying legislation that slid through the NY Senate this month met with complaints that it’s too subjective to define. The same argument that was used against Sexual Harassment and Domestic Violence . Continue reading