This is a true story: An assistant accidentally dropped a file of papers on the floor at a staff meeting. Her manager exploded into a tirade of profanity and called her “stupid” in front of her horrified colleagues. The manager did not apologize then or in the days that followed. Within a month, the assistant quit the job but not before visiting her doctor for treatment for stress. In addition, she spent that month (on company time) searching for a new job.
I asked my class of 25 assistants if any of them had experienced anything similar and 21 hands shot up including mine. A few called out, “I got fired, too.” Several others shouted out along with them.
Assistants: You are not alone. This story is all too common and there is simply no excuse for it.
The demands of today’s workplace are pressured enough without additional angst caused by staffers acting out their stress in the form of yelling, public humiliation and throwing things.
What’s the fix? We must decide to break the silence and to no longer tolerate workplace bullying. We must speak to the elephants in the room and let our senior management leaders know what is going on so that they can take action.
We pay a very high personal price if we stay silent to bullying. Companies pay a very high price, too, in lower productivity and a revolving door of staff. If you are sad, angry, depressed and stressed out, is it possible to do excellent work? Absolutely not. That is reason enough to figure out how to change this destructive dynamic.
Here are five steps to take when speaking up to a workplace bully:
1. Choose your moment.
2. Be calm, clear, and direct.
3. Get the person alone.
4. Prepare and practice what you are going to say.
5. Have specific examples prepared. “I want to speak with you about what happened in the meeting on Tuesday. We need to work with each other respectfully, so let’s talk about how we can improve our communication with one another.”
Speaking up lets bullies know in no uncertain terms that they are being held accountable. At the very least, it changes the dynamic and breaks the pattern. You gain self-respect and increased confidence, especially if it works, even just a little. That’s big and a great start.
Only by addressing the issue of bullying in our workplace head-on will we be able to slow down the destructive behaviors that are chasing good people away. It’s time.