Before going into an organisation with my coaching programs, I run a survey question - "What it is that people say or do that annoys or frustrates you in your work." The majority of responses return with examples of internal conflict, bullying being the main one.
The evidence is out there, we are angrier and sadder than we ever have been before and it is often reflected in the way we talk to other people when we are annoyed, confused, or frustrated.
For the most part, our communication style has changed across the generations. What Baby Boomers would to say to each other thirty years ago was often viewed as the norm, today it is quite rightly viewed as bullying. "Get on with it you lazy so-and-so" was how I was motivated at work. Crazy when I think back on it.
Anecdotally, the majority of bullies are Baby Boomers who were 'motivated' in the same way that I was. We need to change.
Bullying has many underlying reasons - low self-esteem, incorrect upbringing, peer pressure, modelled behaviour, poor health, etc., etc. These are not excuses; they just help to explain the reason why which may help us to identify a solution.
Bullying was rife in the military under the guise of 'orders', they have subsequently changed because they know it doesn't work to get the best out of people.
What should you do if you are being bullied at work;
- Give them one chance - Sometimes we say things in the heat of the moment that we later regret. I am a big believer in giving everyone one chance, let it slide this time but record the details of the interaction.
- Hold that thought - Never confront the person at the time of the bullying, allow at least two hours until you speak with the person to enable your adrenaline to dissipate. I prefer to wait overnight. If you don't do this, you might end up saying the wrong thing as emotions run hot.
- Write it down - Record in writing what was said and how you felt about it. This is an important step, not for the purpose of using it as ammunition in a court case but to allow you to start thinking from your left brain - your rational brain - rather than from your right brain - your emotional/defensive brain.
- Think about what you want to say - Have a plan, not a plan of attack but of conciliation. This is what the person said, this is how I felt about what they said, and this is what I would like to see happen from here forward.
- Arrange a time to meet - Ask to speak with them at a time that suits them so that they can give you their full attention.
- Confront the behaviour, but be nice - Remind them of what was said and how you felt about it. Ask if there was a reason as often there is one. Give them a chance to respond while you control your breathing...
- Put them on notice - Ask the person what they would like you to do if it happens again. "Should I speak with you immediately if this happens again or would you prefer me to wait until the next day like I have done this time?"
- If it happens again - Now it's time to get serious as this is now a third occasion. Report the repeated behaviour to a superior or to a union representative.
You will note that all the way through this process you make it about them. That's the key, make it about the other person. If you confront bullying in a confrontational manner, then you become the bully.