Battling the Team Bully
Have you ever wondered what happened to the schoolyard bullies that you had the misfortune of meeting during your youth? Sadly, a number of them grew up and took jobs with the organisation where you are currently employed. As a team leader, you may even be supervising one of them.
Adult bullies, like their schoolyard counterparts, tend to be insecure people with inadequate or absent social skills and little empathy. They turn their insecurity outwards, and find satisfaction in their ability to attack and diminish the capable people around them. A workplace bully subjects his/her target to unjustified criticism and insignificant fault-finding. Additionally, he/she humiliates the target in front of others, and ignores, overrules, isolates or harasses the target with unfaltering regularity.
It is not uncommon for the team leader to be unaware that a bully exists on his/her team until the target complains. Once the behavior comes to light, the team leader can take the following course of action.
- Enforce any company policies that exist about respectful conduct in the workplace. If no such policy exists, one will need to be created.
- Do the needed research to assure that the problem indeed stems from bullying, and not a personality conflict between two employees.
- Discover how widespread the problem is by asking other team members if they have noticed, or been affected by the alleged bully's behavior.
- Put the bully on notice that his/her behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated, then maintain careful observation of the bully's behavior to assure that bullying actions do not surface again.
- Lend support to the bully's target and extend an offer of professional counseling to help reduce the distress produced by the bully's abuse.
- If the allegations against the bully prove to be true, work hard to terminate the bully and rid your team of the detrimental impact of dealing with a disturbed team mate.