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Stop workplace bullies in their tracks – a guide

Workplace bullying is rife in many workplace environments, it is not acceptable

When we leave education and step into the world of work, the last thing we expect is to be faced with the experience of being bullied. But what happens if playground politics follow you into your career, with unscrupulous colleagues subjecting you to the same level of harassment which we would normally associate with the playground?

The problem is, even though we enter the world of work with positive views on what adult behaviour should be, at times even our fellow colleagues fail to embody the principles of adulthood – respect, integrity and professionalism – which we would ideally like to see.

Classic workplace bullying techniques

People can be subjected to bullying behaviour in the workplace for a number of reasons. If someone is seen to be a firm favourite for promotion, or additional responsibility, colleagues may feel slighted and work to undermine the career progression of the individual concerned. People bypassed for promotions which they feel they deserve, or those working under a manager whom they feel does not deserve the level of responsibility, may resort to unprofessional tactics in order to undermine the successful colleague.

The good news is, regardless of the motivation behind bullying in the work environment, it’s possible to manage the situation and prevent it from escalating to a point where your role is no longer tenable.

Confront the issue

While it may be instinctive to ignore the problem and hope it goes away, it’s actually very positive to initiate discussion with the person concerned. Book a meeting, and be polite, but blunt. Explain that you sense there is an issue, and you’re keen to resolve it, for the benefit of the firm.

Agree a positive resolution

Use very specific language to request the best way forward. Ask what the issue is and what the bully feels you may be able to do to resolve it. Maintain direct language, and be courteous, but firm. A phrase such as, “What, specifically, would you consider to be an effective outcome?” can be hugely powerful in mitigating issues and diffusing negativity.

Set boundaries for future behaviour

Engage a senior manager to support you, and implement an action plan within agreed timescales, to resolve the situation. Log all outcomes of meetings, and agree with both the protagonist and your manager the schedule for resolution, responsibilities on all sides, and outcomes agreed.

Maintain the schedule

Once all parties have agreed a positive way forward, take responsibility for owning the schedule of improvement. Flag up any issues which may arise from missing agreed deadlines, and work proactively to ensure that the agreed resolution is implemented and any subsequent negative behaviour issues are managed effectively.

While workplace bullying is rife in many workplace environments, it is not acceptable. By following a clear pathway of confrontation, resolution and monitoring, it’s possible to address and manage any issues effectively, leaving you free to focus upon your day to day role.

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