5 Tips on How a Supervisor Can Manage Bullying at Work

by Working World Cafe

bullying at workDo you work with a bully? If you answered yes to this question, you could be part of a statistic. Numbers show that one of 54 million Americans who have been bullied, were in the workplace. Bullies can be bosses, coworkers, friends and even family. The first step in managing the bully is to recognize that bullying is happening. Bullying at work has a pattern of behavior that is meant to hurt, dominate, or control others. So how do we stop or control this? In order to resolve issues and return to a peaceful workplace, supervisors hold the responsibility to spot signs of bullying and to confront the problem.

How to Manage a Bully

  • Take Complaints Seriously. When a subordinate comes to you for help about feeling the target of disrespectful treatment or behavior, it is crucial to take seriously.
  • Respond promptly when you get a complaint. A minor issue to you may not seem like a big deal, but it matters to the person who is asking for your help.  When coworkers cannot resolve an issue between themselves, it says something about how your workgroup gets along. Your managerial involvement requires immediate attention.
  • Get both sides of the story. Neutrality is important in order to maintain fairness and to give maximum credibility to any plan of action that comes out of the meeting. If emotions are high, meeting with employees separately is an option. Ask each individual what is going on. Focus on the facts and calmly point out any patterns that you see.
  • Require civil behavior. When you address disrespectful conduct early on, simply clearing the air can often be very effective.  Your suggestions can help individuals recognize the signals that their behavior has gone too far.  Targeted individuals need to be encouraged to keep communication open and speak up rather than harbor continued bad feelings about their treatment by others.
  • Remind everyone about retaliation. Maintaining open communication protects your awareness of what is going on in your department.  Make sure everyone knows that you want to be informed right way if bad behavior does not stop or if any party feels they are being “punished” for speaking out.  Follow up with individuals privately to confirm the situation has improved.

To get more information on how we can help with bullying, please visit our website or contact us.

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  • Grisel

    what happen when your immediate supervisor is the bully
    what do you do?

  • Bernie Dyme

    Great question although there is no easy answer. First of all, recognize that bullying is about power and not about your performance. If there is a performance problem, a manager should know how to deal with it in an appropriate manner. Therefore, make sure you document any incidents of bullying and maintain a paper or email trail. Next, get advice or counsel about how to proceed. And you might start by seeing if your organization has a policy against workplace bullying. If so, then there should be some formalized process for you to follow in terms of reporting. HR is usually where you can go for support. Your EAP is another good place to go as they may be able to provide you with guidance or coach you through the process.