With all this talk about bullying and violence in the workplace, how do you stand up for yourself?

It seems that this fall many of the questions from participants in workshops I was delivering were,”Do you have tips on how to deal with bullies in the workplace and survive?”

What exactly is a workplace bully? It is important to distinguish between normal worker conflict and workplace bullying. Bullying is defined as repeated, persistent, continuous behaviour as opposed to a single negative act and is usually associated with a power imbalance between the victim and perpetrator, where the victim feels or is made to feel inferior (Salin 2003).

Research has indicated that victims of workplace bullying wait almost two years before filing a complaint and have a 70% chance of losing their jobs. Interestingly only 13% of bullies are ever punished or terminated and bullying is three times more prevalent than sexual harassment, usually occurring without witnesses. Even when bullying is witnessed, colleagues will rarely support the bullied employee.

Bullying should not be confused with a tough or strict style of management. Examples of workplace bullying behaviour include silent treatment, starting or encouraging rumours, personal attack of a person’s private life and/or personal attributes, excessive or unjustified criticism, micro management, verbal abuse such as name calling, withholding job related information, withholding job responsibility, replacing proper work with demeaning jobs, setting unrealistic goals or deadlines.

Characteristics of those who bully include low-self esteem, poor communication skills, unresolved work issues and the impression they have the right to inflict controlling and abusive behaviours onto others. They often are viewed as charmers and generally liked by their supervisors. Additionally, they often bully to cover up their own insecurities and weaknesses. According to Rowell (2005), 81 per cent of bullies are managers, 4 per cent are peers and five per cent are lower-ranking staff.

Who is the typical victim of the workplace bully? Remember we said that one reason bullies behave the way they do is to compensate for their own insecurities. Often the victim is a nice person, hard working, intelligent and the bully feels threatened or intimidated. Bullies also tend to pick on those that desperately need the job and are less likely to quit or resign as a result of the behaviour.

According to a study by the Canadian Workplace Bully Institute, Women are targeted by bullies more frequently than men, mostly by other women.

How do you stand up for yourself?

  • Be informed. Educate yourself as to your policies and procedures for bullying and violence in the workplace.
  • Document everything. Document, document, document! Write down every incident, the date, time, place, details of what occurred and names of any witnesses to the incident. Keep a diary; documenting what occurred, including what you have done to try to stop it.
  • Stand up to the bully. Remember when confronted by a bully, do not argue. Someone has to be the adult. Let it be you. There are likely to be witnesses, so your professional response to his/her unethical conduct will carry much weight. Avoid being alone with the bully if this is possible.

If you feel confident and secure in doing so, confront the bully and let them know that their behaviour is not appreciated or acceptable and that you want it to stop. You may want to ask a supervisor or union member to accompany you when you approach the bully. Remaining calm and courteous is important. With a deep breath state, “I find the manner in which you speak to me offensive, and I consider it to be harassment. Please do not do this again or I’ll have to take further action.” If you cannot confront the bully, put it in writing, stating the incident with specific example of their offensive conduct and tell them how you want to be spoken to in the future.

  • Speak to colleagues. Maybe they are experiencing the same thing? There is always strength in numbers. By outnumbering the bully, you will be able to stop them in their tracks. Often the bully has one target, so by gathering your forces you will have the strength in numbers.
  • Pay no attention to them. Most bullies are just seeking attention, so by turning your back to them and ignoring them you have gained control. When they realize you are not listening to them, they will sooner or later lose interest or give up and leave you alone, and unfortunately moving on to someone else.
  • Speak to the bully’s manager. When you approach the bully’s manager have all your documentation with you in case you get a defensive response.
  • Do not retaliate. You might be found guilty and blamed for initiating the conflict. Try instead to be kind to them. Most bullies take pleasure in knowing they are making you feel uncomfortable and hurt so do not let them see your emotional state. Not necessarily immediately, but by demonstrating that you have control over your state of mind and emotions, they may in time stop bullying you and leave you alone.
  • Climb the ladder. If all these tactics do not work and the bullying behaviour continues rather than allowing yourself to continue be the target from the bully, tell someone in management, human resources or the union what is happening. Sometimes the bullies need a resonant message to halt their attacks. You have a right to a respectful workplace.

Finally, be willing to examine your own feelings. Are you truly being victimized? Are you being overly sensitive?

Understanding why a person bullies may help you in dealing with their behaviour towards you. Seeing them as humans just like you are, and knowing that everyone has something that bothers them may give you some insight into how to response to the bullying behaviour. Knowing what bothers your oppressor and focus on that when they try to intimidate you may create a differ reaction. By realizing they are dealing with their own problems, you may increase your confidence to a position you were not aware you had.

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How To Maximize The Greatest Potential When Working With Generation Y Employees.

In my work with employers dealing with conflict in the workplace, I often hear the frustration of supervisors and managers in trying to understand and work with the youth from what they call the new generation. I had an opportunity to spend some time over the summer months with some young people calling themselves the Generation Y / Millennials / Generation We and they shared some of their thoughts with me and I am in turn sharing with you.

Interesting there are about 75 million ‘millennials’ either preparing to join or are joining the workforce which makes it vital that we learn how to use this resourceful generation group effectively. They are the fastest growing generation in the work force. And they are encountering the most interaction with our clients and customers, either by answering the phones, bring in coffee, greeting clients, and providing ongoing service to them directly because they have the entry level positions where they meet the customer face to face daily. These up and coming employees of our future were born between the late 1970s and early 1980s to the early 2000s, so they are between the ages of 16-18 at the young side up to 34 years of age.

They are described as optimistic, determined, motivated and culturally diverse; this group is commonly known by an increased ease with communication, media and digital technologies. Their brains automatically spot inefficiencies, such as dial up internet and seek ways to fix them.  They are prepared to join your workplace with a smaller percent off pay in order to work in an environment where they feel valued, challenged and included.

I discovered in my conversations that there a few inexpensive strategies to work with their natural tendencies, and you will reap the rewards.

Six ways to get more results from your generation Y employees.

Providing them feedback: Take five to ten seconds a month to say “thanks for coming through for us. I liked the way you were there for John.” Then stop talking because they are already texting their friends saying, “My boss has just talked to me!” So don’t do it constantly, it is the worst thing you could do.  Most companies have the philosophy that if your boss is talking to you have done something wrong. The Generation Y were taught that if the boss is not talking to them then something is wrong, and they feel they may be getting fired and become anxious. So five seconds of feedback can mean five months of motivation.

How do you give them incentives? Experience and time more than money. Invite them as project leader to quarterly executive meeting. Ask them to sit in the back and observe the interaction, pay attention to the dialogue and learn from what they see. This is huge.. huge for them.  This experience provides them with the opportunity to get exposure to what they will be doing in the future for you. So position their job based on challenges and projects rather than duties and responsibilities. They are seeking jobs where they can solve their own problems. Develop their skills by giving them stretch projects. Coach them to ask for opportunities to research and stretch their abilities develop their skills faster, which will also move your organization forward. They often have great ideas.

Third, this may seem funny but remember them on their national holiday, which is their birthday. When it comes to their birthday, for them, it is not just their day or week. It is their month!  Say happy birthday, no card because they don’t get mail. One company did this for all employees not just Gen Y. They gave them $20.00 and told them to spend it on something they have never done before and take pictures. One person used to towards air gliding, one towards volunteering, another took his girlfriend out to dinner maybe for the first time. Their birthday is their special moment, and it builds rapport and shows them that you care. So just sending them an email or text to say “Happy Birthday” really makes them feel accepted and shows you care.

If only do one thing. Do this…make their first day at job unforgettable. Gen Y decides on their first day whether they will be remaining with your company or not. Some even make that decision by lunch and are texting their friends to apply at your workplace or will be searching for another job by the second day.

So two easy ways to make this day special.  Most companies start new employees on Monday, which is the most stressful day of the week for most organizations.  New employees arrive on Monday; are greeted and told see you tomorrow and left alone. So a suggestion is to start your new hires on any other day.  It will make that experience so much different for them. If you cannot change the day because HR says everyone starts on Monday then have them show up at 10:00 am so all emergencies are dealt with by then.

Once they show up and in the work environment give them a tour. A suggestion for all new hires is to pair them up with someone from the same generation and same gender. Research indicates they ask more deeper and meaningful questions and make a friend. It is important that you provide a generation Y with a same gender because the opposite gender makes the tour a date! Not what you may want to start.

Remember when they start they are excited, nervous and anxious to make a good impression. So stop them when they first arrive at the door. Give them a small box; have them open it in front of you. In the box should be 10 pre printed temporary business cards with their name printed, which you did on your computer. This says to them “Welcome to our team. You now represent this organization and we represent you”. You know the first person they give their card to is their mom… when she picks them up!!

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