Last year, a friend asked me if I had been bullied at school. I was ginger-haired, spotty and my name is Kerley...what do you think?
I asked why she wanted to know and she explained it was because she had been bullied and had only just managed to see how it had affected her adult life. It was hurting her so she had sought professional help, managed to forgive her school bully, reduce her own aggression and - as a result - keep her job! Yes, she's a manager and was being accused of bullying by her subordinate.
You see, bullying tends to create one of three reactions (fight/flight/freeze) which ripple onwards in a very negative way. For more educated souls, there is an alternative response. NOTE:- A response - not a reaction,
"The best response toward a bully is to choose assertiveness over aggression".
Bullies need to be stood up to but using violence to put them in their place lowers us to their level and that, as my friend discovered, simply doesn't work at work.
Being calm, considered, assertive and fair shows you care. It is, effectively, love. Demonstrating the emotional intelligence to hold back from fighting and, instead, seeking to resolve the issue carefully is by far a much more effective method. Hate can't beat hate. Love can.
"But it doesn't work like that in the real world", I hear you cry...... I agree...sometimes. Using love / care / Emotional Intelligence (let's face it...21st century professionalism) to combat a bully doesn't always work. However, when it doesn't, it definitely earns the higher moral ground and everyone sees the other person for who they are.
It got me thinking about managers and leaders who bully at work.
"Some people just want to be alpha"
One of my colleagues was resigned to the idea that 'some people just want to be alpha' but countless psychological studies have proved time and again that there is always a reason.
The challenge is whether that individual has any appetite to explore their back-story, get to the bottom of it, get over it, apologise for bullying, ask for forgiveness and move on to be a better human being.
Some people are simply not mature enough to go through that yet - some never reach that level of maturity. They lack the self awareness and/or humility and so find comfort in aggressive behaviour. 'Cloughie' in the 60's was deemed a high quality manager but this 40-sec video shows how he behaved.
I've just completed a superb course in leadership communication skills through Dale Carnegie.
Also in attendance were a couple of current first class sportsmen - premier league level - intensely pressured.
According to them, 'the youth' are less accepting of a bullying management style these days and expect to be treated with respect. Unacceptable banter (bullying) is reducing - the changing room hierarchy is diminishing with the result of better team work. I think there has been so much focus on the negativity associated with bullying, it is being tolerated less and less in society. Who knows if it will ever be extinguished entirely but the less there is, the less violence will be used to deal with it.
I see this as a good thing. HR will have less of a painful job - and I think they will be glad about it.
Until that day comes, people continue to join organisations and leave managers.
If you'd like help with supporting a bully to change or reducing an aggressive / bullying culture in your organisation - I can help.
Contact me for your free - no obligation - consultation to find out how.
Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org