Category Archives: Bullying

Bullying – WMHI blog header

5 More Subtle Signs of Workplace Bullying

You may not think of your office as a place where bullying occurs, but believe it or not, this kind of interpersonal conflict happens in places other than just the schoolyard.

In fact,

research has shown that as many as 1 in 4 people report that they have experienced workplace bullying firsthand.

Unfortunately, workplace bullying often goes under the radar. Why? First of all, it’s not always as obvious as the overt name-calling, shoving, and teasing that we have come to associate with made-for-TV bullies. Secondly, bullying can be embarrassing: a team member who is being bullied may not want to talk about it for fear of looking weak. He or she may also feel pressure to avoid ‘dobbing in’ a coworker, or becoming the target of the bully if they step in on someone’s behalf.

But workplace bullying can and should be addressed by managers in any business or company. In the work environment, bullying tends to be a long, slow, and progressive process, whereby the perpetrator emotionally and psychologically manipulates his or her target over time. This can lead to serious problems with an overall workplace environment and may even contribute to lost productivity, increased errors, and other issues that are common with a distracted and unhappy team member (not to mention a worst-case scenario in which companies are held legally liable for failing to protect an employee against bullying).

Are you a psychologically safe manager? Take the self-assessment to find out.

WMHI Blog – 5 More Subtle Signs of Workplace Bullying

So, the first step in putting an end to workplace bullying in your company is to learn how to tell if, when, and where it’s happening. Here are 5 subtle signals that your workplace environment may be home to some bullying:

  1. Frequent use of the blame game.

Is there a person on your team who seems to always have an excuse for his or her performance? Does he or she frequently point fingers at someone else, using another person as a scapegoat? Responsibility has to lie somewhere: if someone is unwilling to take personal responsibility for their own actions or inactions, then chances are they’re attempting to unfairly shift that responsibility to someone else.

  1. Minimising the thoughts, contributions, and feelings of others.

Having a patronising attitude toward someone is a subtle way of putting that person down and making him or her feel victimised. A team member who appears to make fun of, minimise, undermine, or discredit someone’s ideas or needs (especially on a consistent basis) could be bullying. They maylaugh derisively at someone’s thoughts or ideas; or physically disengage in communication by turning away and changing topic drastically.

  1. Deceit and dishonesty.

We all tell white lies from time to time. But if a person has a pattern of frequently lying, raising false hopes, or saying they’ll do something and then failing to follow through, then this could be a sign that he or she is trying to take advantage of the people around him or her.

  1. Intentional isolation by way of ignoring or excluding someone.

A sensation of “us versus them” can be seriously detrimental to the health and unity of a company. Team members may achieve this by purposefully not inviting someone to a work event or failing to include them in pertinent discussions, meetings, or projects. Purposefully underusing a team member or persistently delegating undesirable tasks to him or her (especially if they fall within many people’s job descriptions) can also be seen as an attempt for separation.

An example of this is, ‘ghosting’, where the bully will ignore a team member’s attempts to  communicate for legitimate work reasons, while they acknowledge other people’s communication that they consider more important. While this practice is, unfortunately, widely tolerated in Australia, it is, nonetheless, damaging.

  1. Excessive flattery.

Going overboard on compliments and flattery is disingenuous at best; at worst itcan be a form of manipulation, persuading the target to check for the flatterer’s approval on any decisions or action. It can also be used as a prelude to more overt bullying, encouraging a person let their guard down, therefore becoming easier to manipulate.

The best bullies tend to be very smooth operators, able to hide their bullying well, and will leave just enough wiggle room to claim their good intentions are being misconstrued, in the event they’re called out. The best defense against bullies is education and awareness.  When people are aware of the signs, it becomes harder for the bully to operate freely.

Keep in mind that workplace bullying can happen at any level and in any direction within your company. Everyone, from senior level executives all the way to the newest team members should be held to the same standards that are necessary to create a positive and healthy work environment.

To your mental health,

– Pedro Diaz

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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workplace-bullying

Am I Leading or Bullying?

workplace-bullyingWe know the script.  Hard ass movie general breaks all the rules, saves world, emerges a hero.  Visionary CEO fires people if they can’t describe the value they add to the company within the space of a lift ride, creates fanatical product following, investors rejoice. Political leader promises to ‘drain swamp’, lies repeatedly, maintains multiple conflicts of interest, but that’s ok because we need a guy who’s going to shake things up.

But what lies beneath the gloss and spin of these stories?  Does the need to ‘make big change’ excuse treating people with less respect than they deserve?  Is it in fact required?

A strong leader recognises that every one of their people are different; they apply that in their interactions with them, and are respected for it. A bully, by contrast, intimidates, threatens and singles out employees. They are feared – not respected – and there is a big difference.

Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager who built the club into one of the true commercial juggernauts of our time over an unparalleled 26-year reign, and who has advised the likes of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (and will be quoted more than once in this post) sums this up perfectly:

“You can’t aspire to be loved, because that isn’t going to happen, nor do you want people to be frightened of you. Stay somewhere in the middle and have them respect and trust and see you as fair.”

So, what makes a strong leader? How can he or she learn who their employees are, how to lead them, motivate them and keep them on course without sacrificing the three pillars of respect, trust and fairness?

The answers to these questions are slightly more complex. A strong leader observes his or her people and learns about what kind of person they are: What are their habits? How do they express enthusiasm? And if their habits break or their enthusiasm dips, how can you help them get back to their best? This is the essence of leadership: managing people as individuals, and recognising that what works for one person does not necessarily work for another.

Secondly, a strong leader positively reinforces their people. To again quote Sir Alex:

“No one likes to be criticised. Few people get better with criticism; most respond to encouragement instead. For a player – for any human being – there is nothing better than hearing ‘well done.’”

And thirdly, a strong leader never holds a grudge. If performance or behaviour dips outside the bounds, the issue is addressed promptly and that is the end of it. People should never be made to feel uncomfortable in their workplace, and having a lengthy punishment hanging over them does not allow them that comfort and it ultimately shatters the pillars of respect, trust and fairness that a strong leader builds his or her foundations on.

So, if that is a strong leader, what makes a bully?

Workplace bullying is verbal, physical, social or psychological abuse by anyone in the workplace on another team member. For a manager, this means while they can reprimand, demote or terminate a staff member’s employment, they cannot do anything that could be viewed as abuse. This includes:

  • Intimidation
  • Making a staff member feel less important and undervalued
  • Giving pointless tasks to staff that has nothing to do with their job or tasks that are impossible for the staff member to complete
  • Deliberately changing rostered hours or work schedule to make life difficult
  • Withholding information pertinent for a task to be completed properly
  • Forcing a staff member to be excluded from their team mates or taking part in activities that relates to their work
  • Playing mind games or other types of psychological harassment

Managers who do this are not strong leaders. They are bullies.

And finally, what makes a victim? A victim of workplace bullying is not always an easy spot. However, there are signs, that if noticed should set off alarm bells in the mind of their employer. These include:

  • If they are less active or successful at work
  • If they are less confident in themselves or their work
  • Feel scared, stressed, anxious or depressed
  • Their lives outside of work are affected by their work
  • Wanting to stay away from work
  • Feeling they can’t trust their employer or the people they work with
  • Have physical signs of stress like headaches, backaches and sleep problems

It is important to note that bullying does not always come from the leaders in the workplace, it can come from anywhere in the business. A strong leader recognises and acts upon this swiftly and accordingly, because a happy and harmonious workplace is a successful workplace.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
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1 Million Payout

$1 Mil Payout For Bullying & Harassment At Work – Brace Yourselves

1 Million PayoutA court recently awarded $1 million to a NSW woman who was bullied in the workplace. That’s the largest amount we’ve ever heard of for workplace bullying. The Courts are getting serious!

It just goes to prove how serious the courts are getting about bullying and harassment in the workplace. If this is anything to go by, we expect to see more and more cases like this in the near future.

When it comes to managing employees, this is where things can get really tricky. There are a couple of situations which can occur when it comes to bullying and mental health:

    1. The person does not have any mental health problem, but the bullying causes them to become unwell.
    2. The person has an underlying mental health problem that they may not even know about, which becomes exacerbated when faced with a bullying situation.
    3. The person has a diagnosed mental health problem, which is made worse by bullying.

The other thing to consider as a manager though, is that a person in one of the last two groups (and that’s a good percentage of people) is more likely to feel bullied and harassed in general.

Generally speaking, people with mental health problems can have a heightened sensitivity to the interpersonal dynamics at play in a workplace (or any other social environment for that matter). We sometimes say they have a good ‘bullshit detector’. They are often more aware of the subtle forms of bullying and harassment that often fly under the radar, or that other people might not notice or have become accustomed to.

On the plus side, this means they can call out the passive-aggressive bullies who are subtly creating nasty working environments for everyone. As managers, you want someone to flag those issues before they get worse, so you can address it. But on the down side, this can mean that sometimes that person may be more likely to feel bullied even when that is not what’s happening.

Clearly, that’s not what happened in this case, but it seems to be a common question that arises in many of our courses.

So what can you do as a manager to protect all your staff, and your organisation? Here are a couple of things:

    1. Set very clear expectations and standards for all employees, but especially for managers as to what is appropriate behaviour.
    2. Train your managers in management! – skills like performance management, delivering feedback, supervision or mentoring skills, how to have difficult conversations, and managing workplace mental health, to name a few.
    3. Nurture a mentally healthy culture, a workplace where people are happy to be.
    4. Build good relationships with your staff. You want them to feel comfortable to talk to you early if an issue such as this arises, so you can step in and act quickly before it gets out of hand.
    5. Build the resilience and emotional stamina of your staff. Equip them with tools to stay strong, so that in the case a bully does appear, they are better able to cope, and take appropriate action.

There’s one last thing I want to mention in regards to this article and that is, the reference to a psychological condition as a ‘permanent disability’. There is a huge body of evidence in mental health that shows it does not have to be a permanent illness. It can be but it doesn’t have to be. The majority of people can and do recover, given the right support. I certainly hope the lady in this article does find the right help for her, although is seems than in her case, it’s going to be a tough road ahead.

Btw, we upskill managers on what to do and how to do it, and more, at our Workplace Mental Health Masterclass for Leaders course. Check it out and see if it’s for you

Read the original article here: http://finance.nine.com.au/2016/10/25/09/29/nsw-worker-wins-1-million-for-workplace-bullying

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

Bullying

Beware Declaring War on Bullying

A common mistake people make, especially at work, is to assume that it’s ‘others’ who are being a bully. And that bullying is an abuse of power by some other people more powerful than I. But this is self deceit. Many bullies don’t realise they are being a bully. It’s like having snot in the middle of your face, you are usually the last person to find out, right?

Bullying in the workplaceThe same with acting like a bully. Ask yourself, ‘can I think of times when I’ve acted like a bully?’ before you answer rashly, think about this ‘do you like to be right?’ if you are not right, does it upset you? do you like rules? (but only your rules!)’ then it’s quite probable that, at times, you may have acted as a bully to others, even if you didn’t mean to.

Or think about it this way, have you ever taken it out on someone else? and you knew it wasn’t their fault but you had a go at them anyway? and what’s more, did you secretly enjoy it? (even if later you felt guilty about it) I think most of us have. By the way most people do. It’s not that we are bad people, it’s that we all have the potential to try to force our thoughts, actions and will onto someone else. It’s usually a response to our own fears and uncertainties.

One of the common scenarios we see in workplaces goes like this – someone doesn’t agree with a colleagues’ idea, opinion, or direction. For some reason, they feel it’s personal. They feel hurt, upset, disappointed, or frustrated. Now they start to see their colleague differently. As a evil, bad, some kind of bitch or bastard. A villain. And it’s ok to stop perpetrators, right? Don’t we have a moral obligation to stop them? …and the reasons for judging, labelling and attacking keep coming.

By the way, this is completely normal and to be expected when you have a group of people coming together to work on something. But if the person is not aware of what is going on, it may not be too long before they start to feel they are being bullied or victimised. And in response, they launch an all out attack on the colleague. Does this sound at all familiar? Now who is doing the bullying in this scenario? The wise person will catch themselves in this.

We need to be careful before we react, to make sure that we ourselves have not become a bully in response. This means a certain level of self awareness and self honesty is required. Rather than declare war on bullying, check to make sure you are responding with compassion, kindness, understanding and assertion, not aggression.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

Workplace Mental Health Institute