Workplace bullying in meetings is expensive, not least because it degrades the quality of the work performed in meetings. If allowed to persist, those who are targeted tend to shut down, depriving the meeting of their contributions. Moreover, once the bully has established dominance, solving the problem becomes more difficult. That's why bullying must be dealt with immediately.
Let's begin by defining workplace bullying. Definitions vary — here's mine:
Workplace bullying is any aggressive behavior, associated with work, and primarily intended to cause physical or psychological harm to others.
Although workplace bullying is usually cloaked in business purposes, the bully's primary intention is inflicting physical or psychological harm to consolidate power.
In all cases, the chair is responsible for ending the bullying. Let's consider the least complex case first: neither the bully nor the target is the chair. In this case, the chair can demand a change in behavior.
Here are six suggestions for chairs who observe bullying taking place. They follow a simple pattern: Prepare, Intervene, and finally, Escalate.
- Publish behavioral norms
- Publish behavioral norms — ten or a dozen at most — before taking any other action. Examples: Be respectful, don't raise your voice, don't interrupt, wait for recognition by the chair, and so on. Incorporate in this list any relevant items from the company code of conduct.
- Document what's been happening
- Prepare documentation that specifies for each bullying incident the date and time, the target's name, the bully's name, the behavior itself, and what you did about it. The audience for this document is the bully's supervisor, your supervisor, and possibly a Human Resources representative.
- Seize the floor
- As chair, when you notice bullying behavior, seize the floor. Typically, some behavioral norm has been violated. Caution the offender. For example, "George, let's be more respectful. You may continue if you agree to be more respectful. Otherwise I'll give the floor to someone else."
- Speak to the bully privately
- Speaking to the bully privately deprives the bully of an audience. Explain that you regard the bully's behavior as bullying, that it must stop immediately, and that you'll take further action if it continues, but don't specify what action you'll take.
- Speak to the bully's supervisor
- If the bullying persists, speak to the bully's supervisor. Ask the supervisor to let you know when corrective action has been taken.
- Speak to your own supervisor privately
- If the Speaking to the bully
privately deprives the
bully of an audiencebully's supervisor doesn't act promptly and effectively, seek advice from your own supervisor. Perhaps your supervisor and the bully's supervisor can resolve the issue together.
If these actions fail, the problem belongs to HR, since neither you, nor the bully's supervisor, nor your own supervisor has acted effectively to end the bullying. Present your documentation to a Human Resources representative, and ask for advice about what further action might be required of you.
Are you being targeted by a workplace bully? Do you know what to do to end the bullying? Workplace bullying is so widespread that a 2014 survey indicated that 27% of American workers have experienced bullying firsthand, that 21% have witnessed it, and that 72% are aware that bullying happens. Yet, there are few laws to protect workers from bullies, and bullying is not a crime in most jurisdictions. 101 Tips for Targets of Workplace Bullies is filled with the insights targets of bullying need to find a way to survive, and then to finally end the bullying. Also available at Apple's iTunes store! Just USD 9.99. Order Now!
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More articles on Workplace Bullying:
- Hurtful Clichés: II
- Much of our day-to-day conversation consists of harmless clichés: "How goes it?" or
"Nice to meet you." Some other clichés aren't harmless, but they're so common that
we use them without thinking. Here's Part II of a series exploring some of these clichés.
- The Costs of Threats
- Threatening as a way of influencing others might work in the short term. But a pattern of using threats
to gain compliance has long-term effects that can undermine your own efforts, corrode your relationships,
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- Confronting the Workplace Bully: I
- When a bully targets you, you have three options: accept the abuse; avoid the bully or escape; and confront
or fight back. Confrontation is a better choice than many believe — if you know what you're doing.
- When the Chair Is a Bully: III
- When the Chair of the meeting is so dominant that attendees withhold comments or slant contributions
to please the Chair, meeting output is at risk of corruption. Because Chairs usually can retaliate against
attendees who aren't "cooperative," this problem is difficult to address. Here's Part III
of our exploration of the problem of bully chairs.
- Social Isolation and Workplace Bullying
- Social isolation is a tactic widely used by workplace bullies. What is it? How do bullies use it? Why
do bullies use it? What can targets do about it?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming June 20: Managing Dissent Risk
- In group decision making, dissent risk is the risk that dissents about important decisions will be rejected without due consideration. As a result, group decision quality can suffer, and some groups will actually eject dissenters. How can we manage dissent risk? Available here and by RSS on June 20.
- And on June 27: Interrupting Others in Meetings Safely: I
- In meetings we sometimes feel the need to interrupt others to offer a view or information, or to suggest adjusting the process. But such interruptions carry risk of offense. How can we interrupt others safely? Available here and by RSS on June 27.
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