After reading this week’s ShortList article, written by Jimi Famurewa, on bullying in the workplace, I cant say that I’m shocked or surprised by it. Bullying is rife in every walk of life and is just as prominent in the workplace now as it ever was, only carried out in different ways.
Phillip Landau, contributor to the article affords the perpetrators of bullying somewhat of an excuse in the form of a ‘difficult financial climate’ or more ‘highly pressurised workforces’, for my mind his explanations are slightly over engineered.
There has always been pressure, there has always been difficult financial periods, and indeed this is only relevant from one from organisation to another. The real reason for bullying is the matter of a struggle for power, as Benjamin Disraeli once said “courage is fire, and bullying is smoke”.
Bullying is a lot of bluff and bluster, a cover up for that persons own inadequacies and insecurities, the bravado is deep rooted in underlying social anxieties that manifest in a thick smoke screen.
Therefore, we should take pity and try to rehabilitate them. Rolling out a half baked anti bullying policy wont quite cut it, a severe ticking off wont either. The best way to eradicate bullying would be through a prolonged commitment from senior leaders to fixing the problem in the form of a frequent health check.
• Research – specific and targeted communication audits conducted by an external agency around difficult and sensitive issues are a great place to start, including surveys, one to one interviews and focus groups with a randomly selected sample of the workforce.
• Awareness – the research will allow you to realise the severity of the situation and provide obvious or indicative clues to finding the culprits and victims involved.
• Punishment – of course bullying can’t go unpunished, take any grievances seriously, investigate them immediately and, naturally, the punishment should fit the crime.
• Investigation – attempt to get behind the bravado, speak to bullies and find out those insecurities and problems and thus helping them to overcome them will be a cathartic process for all concerned.
• Development – increase the visibility of senior leaders in the work place and interaction between them and the offenders. Regular follow up meetings, awareness courses and rewarding their future successes will contribute to the development and overall rehabilitation of that person.