Tackling workplace bullying involves many levels. Many think a one day seminar for employees will stop workplace bullying. While education is empowerment, more power is created when leadership supports and aligns with this education. Here are some simple (maybe not so easy) steps any leader can take in order to minimize the impact of workplace bullying.
A workplace is not ‘respectful’ just because there are posters declaring “We Respect our Employees” or “We Do Not Tolerate Disrespect”. Bottom line, the employees get to decide if the atmosphere at work is ‘respectful’.
Leaders: I encourage you to ask each employee: “What can I do to help you experience our workplace as respectful?” or ask them to rate their workplace environment on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being ‘excellent’. Anything less than a ‘5’, ask “What could make it a ‘5’”?
Employees will provide valid feedback and some will have a disposition of entitlement. Either way, you will want to know where each employee stands. If an employee feels like a ‘3’ out of ‘5’ at work, many (minus the superstar employees) will give at a ‘3’ level as well. Most people give what they get.
The Top Things Leaders Can Do to Minimize the Impact of a Disrespectful Workplace:
- Appreciation: When is the last time you ‘noticed’ each of your employees doing something well? Sincere appreciation of a job well done or effort is the number one motivator for employees. In its absence, it becomes a de-motivator. A leader’s job is to be able to notice the ‘good things’ and acknowledge and encourage these attributes. What gets rewarded gets repeated!
- PS: Don’t get caught ‘holding back appreciation’ because there is something you do not ‘like’ about this employee. By letting this mindset be your looking glass, you will never create the productivity and output from this employee. In fact, withholding praise and appreciation in cases like this is a form of bullying. It is deliberate, disrespectful and repeated. Leaders: you have the power to turn this around today. What can you notice and appreciate today?
- Being Treated as an Insider: Remember when you were old enough and your parents shared ‘adult information’ with you such as finances, a worry, even asked your opinion? This works with employees too. Many leaders feel they need to be on top and that means not disclosing information. Some leaders hold back needed information as ‘information is power’. Great leaders share even incomplete information and take steps to involve employees in decision making. A favorite phrase I like to use with my employees is: “Well, what do you think?” or “What do you think of…?”. Leaving employees on the outside creates more of a division. Look for opportunities to share information earlier, even asking employees for their opinions. It is ok to show you are ‘not too sure’ or ‘struggling’; in fact, some employees will seek to help you solve problems and even be on your side. PS: Asking for input/help does not mean you are less of a leader!
- Empathy for Problems: It has been said many times that the number one thing we can do for another’s growth is to show compassion. Compassion is passionate caring. It is sincere, and the other person feels supported. Employees will have work problems, and problems at home and in life too. Sticking to ‘business’ only is a sure way to distance yourself from employee loyalty. Many times an employee might be ‘acting out’ or mildly aggressive due to work demands or personal demands. Reprimanding is not your first course of action. Leaders should always remain curious to an employee’s situation and do some digging. Creating an empathetic understanding for an employee’s situation of stress is the first step to gaining back the employee’s best efforts. I’m not saying to excuse certain behaviors; but changing them involves empathy and understanding on the leader’s part.
- PS: Discipline without relationship is a dictatorship. Develop a relationship of caring and concern for your employees. The more you develop this, the more mileage you will have out of corrective action.
To the Leaders: Leaders, I know your desire is to ‘get things done’ with minimal distraction and interference. Employee loyalty only works with a disposition of caring, empathy and your appreciation of each employee. If you do not have this with certain employees, then do what it takes to identify what you want changed in order to create a ‘servant leader’ disposition. It’s the loyalty equation.
To the Employees: Many times your boss may not have had the leadership training in order to lead you well. In addition, employees often do not have an idea of the pressures their boss may carry. If you find yourself in a situation where you believe your boss is not treating you well, then be sure to read next week’s tip!
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Valerie Cade, CSP is a Workplace Bullying Expert, Speaker and Author of "Bully Free at Work: What You Can Do To Stop Workplace Bullying Now!" which has been distributed in over 100 countries worldwide. For presentations and consulting on workplace bullying prevention and respectful workplace implementation, go to http://www.BullyFreeAtWork.com
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