Bullying In the Workplace

What you should know about dealing with a bully at work.

Listen to this episode of Mumbition The Podcast now!

By Rebecca Carroll-Bell

Have you been bullied? Or has one of your staff been bullied? Don’t let your desire for 'justice' blind you to your own best interests.

Dealing with a bully at work is really tough and it can happen – even when you’re the boss, through dealings with other business partners, or clients who feel they own a stake in you. It is not always up to you to be the hero, to fight for justice. Don't let your desire for justice blind you to what is in your own best interests. It's ok to be selfish and to do what's best for you. Getting away from an immovable bully is a valid option, and the thing with options is, you get to decide which one you take.

And if you’re a boss? It’s important to understand the way you and all your staff interact with other team members so you can avoid any potential issues for your own business.

In a recent workplace dispute, allegations of bullying were made by a junior staff member against his immediate supervisor. I was brought in to see if workplace mediation could sort it out. After a day and a half of discussion and negotiation it seemed clear that the supervisor was a really poor communicator and had not been giving enough training, or the right type of training to the junior. One of the options we came up with was for the junior to find another place to work, and the supervisor would support him in that by giving him a good reference. Another option was for the staff member to stay on and for the workplace to create a 'behavioural contract', whereby they both committed to changing the behaviours that most irritated the other; the third was take it to Fairwork.

In a private session with the junior, he was outraged by the idea that, if he left for another workplace, the supervisor would do the same thing to the next person who came along into the role. He wasn't impressed when told that wouldn't be his problem, it would be the company's problem. He was angry and frustrated that the supervisor would get away with it, that nothing would be done, there would be no consequences for the supervisor. He seemed to feel some sort of obligation to expose this man as a bully, force him to change or be punished, and to protect others from this man's behaviour.

Now, I am all for social responsibility, activism and campaigning for change, but not when it is to your own detriment.

If you are a strong person with the fortitude to go through with all the necessary steps to bring a case in Fairwork or with Workcover, by all means go for it, but be aware of the toll it will take on you, your family, your co-workers, and your life in general, not to mention the amount of time and money you could spend on pursuing this.

In this case, the young man was already stressed out and miserable coming in to work every day because of his supervisor's attitude and behaviour. It was sapping him of his energy and his enjoyment of life. He did not want to be there and was making a huge effort to get through each and every day.

The workplace should not be a place of misery – for anyone. If you or your staff members are experiencing stress and unhappiness, it’s up to you, as the business owner, to undertake thorough investigations and work effectively to find a resolution. The reputation of your business – and the health and wellbeing of your team members - depends on it.

Rebecca Carroll-Bell is an experienced conflict manger and conflict resolution expert. She is passionate about helping you manage, resolve and prevent conflict in your everyday life. You can connect with Rebecca on her website or Facebook.