Leadership for Life – Bully!

By on January 15, 2013
Workplace Bullying

Our Leadership experts will be sharing tips and insights for everyone, at any station in life, at both home and work. Leadership for Life – the skills you embrace represent who you really are at all times.

Did you know that bullying behavior is not illegal in the United States? In fact, only two states – California and Washington – even have any state-wide policies addressing bullying in the workplace. I discovered this only recently as I was designing a workshop on workplace bullying, and I must say I was astounded.

What do we mean by bullying? According to the government of Western Australia (!),

Workplace bullying is behavior that harms, intimidates, offends, degrades or humiliates an employee, possibly in front of other employees, clients, or customers.

Source: (http://www.worksafe.wa.gov.au/newsite/worksafe/media/Guide_bullying_emplo.pdf)

The only recourse a victim of bullying in this country might have is if s/he can show conclusively that the bullying behavior was a form of harassment that falls under existing anti-harassment rules, enforced by the EEOC or a state Human Rights Commission. Thus, if you can make a case that a bully is harassing you for sexual, religious, ethnic, et al reasons, you might be able to get some help from “official” bodies or from an employer preferring not to be the target of an investigation.

So what does this have to do with leadership? I’m glad you asked. Bullies in the workplace thrive under laissez-faire leadership and management regimes. Business leaders have more serious things to worry about, and would prefer to leave it to managers and supervisors to police employee behavior. Should a CEO be concerned about tacks on seats or people’s lunches being stolen from the refrigerator in the break room?

Well, yes. When bullying is allowed to continue or flourish in a work environment, it will affect morale and productivity, leading to excessive employee turnover and the loss of talent in the organization. When nasty rumors about people in the workplace are left unchallenged or treated like “boys will be boys,” everybody’s work suffers.

While I’m not advocating micromanagement from top echelons, I am suggesting (actually, insisting) that leaders pay attention to the “buzz” in their organizations, and make it clear that bullying behavior is not welcome. When everyone knows that the organization’s leadership frowns on unfair, demeaning behavior in the organization, it will likely be a non-issue going forward.

Oh yeah – I did finish that bullying workshop. If you’re interested in learning more, call me at 314-539-5329 or send email to bschapiro@stlcc.edu.

About Barry Schapiro

Barry is the Workforce Solutions Group Practice Leader for Leadership and Professional Development. His experience includes delivery and management of business training in a variety of industries, with specialties in leadership, team development, generational diversity, and customer service. Twitter

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