A Leading Perspective

Pragmatic insights for the leader in you

Bullying in the Workplace

You can only watch injustice go on for so long until you’re compelled to say something. To speak out against it.



I teach a course on various EEO “issues,” on average, about three times every month. I love teaching these classes because while my materials/content are consistent, the stories and questions are always unique depending on my audience.


Over the last few years, I’ve noticed that more stories and questions about bullying behavior are shared/asked.  This could be because awareness of such behavior is heightened or it could be because more employees are becoming jerks.


Either way, it’s a problem.

If I were a bettin’ woman, I’d wager that we’ll have federal legislation regarding bullying in a few short years.  However, I wonder why so many employers are waiting for it.  Do they have no pride in their workplaces?

Do they have no courage to take a stand on bullying without federal or state “rules” to lean on? Or do they not know how to recognize it and, therefore, are ignorant on how to prevent it or stop it?


My advice to my clients is simple…
1. Define the problem.  

Why wait for someone else to do it?  It’s your company – define it yourself.  If you don’t have a way with words, who cares…define it by offering some strong examples. Threatening, antagonizing, accusing, undermining, demoralizing…those are words that are easily understood.  How about encouraging others to isolate individuals, creating discourse or distrust among teammates, throwing one’s weight around, using seniority or lack thereof to intimidate?  These are examples that everyone can grasp.  Shoot, don’t use my words…use your employees’ words – have them help you define it.


2. Communicate your expectations.  

prohibitEmployees need to know what is expected of them.  You tell them when their projects are do, you tell them you want them to complete their time sheets, you tell them that emails are to be answered within a business day.  How about telling them that “bullying is prohibited”?  Why would you make it more complex?  Smoking is prohibited, violence is prohibited, stealing is prohibited…how long are those policies?  (If they are more than one page long, we need to talk.)


3. Talk about it.  

Organizations with excellent safety ratings didn’t get that way by keeping safety issues in the closet; on the other hand, they encouraged communication about concerns and problems.

Leaders in cost and efficiencies didn’t get that way because they hoped employees would be great stewards of their resources; instead, they talked about it, they pointed out where resources were wasted, they identified ways to improve.

Organizations setting the standard in innovation and creativity didn’t get that way because the employees were all natural trail blazers.  No, they got that way because leadership talked about their expectations, they encouraged risk taking, they forgave mistakes, they ensured open communication existed.

What does this tell us?  It suggests that in order to achieve what we want, we must talk about it.


4. Quit tolerating it.  

Education and communication can help prevent bullying…and, as the paragraph above suggests, you should do more of these things. However, there comes a time when you have to quit tolerating it…it’s as simple as that. A gentle reminder to the bullying employee is great…if it works and he/she doesn’t repeat the behavior.examine

But three gentle reminders? Give me a break…you’re tolerating it and you’re a fool.

I’m not suggesting you terminate everyone that makes a mistake but I encourage you to ask this question, “at what point does our “corrective action” actually sting?”  Trust me, it’s rarely at the counseling stage.



I’m sure there is more to say on this subject and I’m sure I’ll speak about it again…perhaps again and again…but for now, please absorb this:


If you’re a manager or a supervisor, preventing bullying in the workplace is your job.  

Do your job; your team deserves it.
BullyingCommunicationsEmployee RelationsEmploymentFairnessFearHappinessHostile Work EnvironmentHuman ResourcesLeadershipRole of HRSatisfactionSexual HarassmentTeamworkWorkforce Satisfaction

Heather Kinzie • November 13, 2013

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