Bullies have no place in a civil society or a civil office.
Bullies are everywhere and pretty much everyone has dealt with one at some point. Even bullies get bullied. Doesn’t matter how bad you are, there is always a bigger bully.
So what can we do about it? There is a wonderful article at Columbus CEO on how to battle bullies. (see: http://www.columbusceo.com/content/stories/2015/06/how-to-battle-workplace-bullies.html) It is specific about workplace bullying. What I want to focus on is the end of the article, where Pamela Krivda talks about the importance of having a civility policy in the workplace.
Rather than trying to have an anti-bullying policy – which is hard to define and hard to monitor, she recommends instead focusing on what you do want, civility in the workplace.
She says, “You can’t change what people think, you can only change their behavior. Employers should make it clear that employees are required to abide by written policies and oral directives that address civility on the job. A civility policy addresses that certain behaviors must stop or there will be consequences, including discipline and termination.”
I love this idea. If people are being civil, then they aren’t bullying. If the workplace requires them to be civil and professional then they can’t use bullying to settle disagreements or force people to do what they want. Getting nasty and personal is not a civil way of dealing with disagreement. The message being given is that it is Ok to disagree – must be civil about it – someone who isn’t civil during a disagreement needs to be reminded how to be civil and that there will be consequences to them if they aren’t.
The other reason I like this approach is it gives the victim the right framework to defend themselves. They aren’t put in a position where they have to say stop hurting me. They are instead reminding their coworker to be civil. This isn’t personal, you either behave civilly or you don’t and I don’t have to tolerate you if you don’t.
Bullying will only stop when we stop tolerating it. Taking the focus off of what is wrong with the victim and putting the focus on the bully’s behavior as inappropriate and not civil is how we get bullying to stop.