Warning All Leaders…Don’t Tolerate Bullies

A lot of light has been shone recently on the affect bullying has on our country’s youth. A warning to business leaders…it happens in business, too, perhaps at your company.

While overt cases are easy to spot, many teams have silent bullies, the people who subtly coerce and make demands of others, thinking this behavior is acceptable. And because no one has said anything about it, the behavior IS acceptable. It’s up to you to say that it isn’t.

Confront and Stop Bullies

Throughout my years of coaching, I’ve realized leaders don’t have to be perfect confronting/neutralizing bullying behavior. What they MUST do is not allow it. However, more times than not, I see nothing being done. On a de facto basis, the bully’s behavior is affirmed by this inaction.

Don’t let this happen to you. As a leader, you need to realize when bullying is taking place and call it out. By avoiding the confrontation, your image weakens. A few years ago, a client shared he actually avoided passing his bully’s office to avoid engaging with him. As we worked together, I asked him to notice how his image as a leader weakens by not intervening for the benefit of his entire team and himself.

Key Signs of Bullying in Business

If you don’t know if bullying is taking place in your business, here are a few things to look for:

  • Disparagement: Notice when someone is curt or speaks disparagingly to or about a colleague or worse, speaks ill of them to you. They might come to you with this type of language, thinking that you are on their side. Make sure they understand that you are not.
  • Siloed Behavior: Do you have a team member who seems to only collaborate with a select few? This type of siloed behavior is an indication that he/she has coerced others into a mini-team while ignoring input from the others. Your team is a whole unit and everyone need to respect that.
  • The Know-It-All: “I know all about that.” “Yes, I’ve done that before.” “I already know what that’s about.”  Watch the person who seems to always “one-up” a colleague. If they do it in front of you, they’re doing it overtly with others and often. Not only is this self-serving and ego driven, but it demotivates others on your team trying to contribute.

How to Handle a Bully in Business

If you have people on your team who don’t seem motivated, it could be due to inappropriate behaviors by a bully on your team. How do you handle it? First, you need to commit to doing SOMETHING. Second, act! Here’s something to try out: “John, I’ve noticed that your behavior is rude and inappropriate to your teammates. This is damaging your ability to succeed here. I won’t allow it to continue because I believe you can have a much more positive impact on the team if you abandon these tactics.”

Despite the bully’s vehement denial, you will get your point across…that you are watching him and expect a change immediately.

Try it! You’ll feel a lot better for having acted. And your team will thank you for it. Let me know how it goes.