March 5th, 2013
Misconception: People Bullied At Work Are Weak
Commonly, the word bullying calls to mind the child in the playground wearing Coke-bottle glasses, being thumped by a bully. This stereotypical weakling has no buddies to come to his rescue. As with all stereotypes, this one is not necessarily true.
In adulthood, the same stereotype depicting targets as weak persists. In fact, employees targeted for repeated, harmful, abusive mistreatment possess many strengths. Targets are known to be technically more skilled than their bully; be better liked; be ethical, honest and principled; and to reject workplace politics. Those personal strengths threaten the seemingly invincible bully. The reality is that bullying behavior masks an afraid-to-be-exposed person.
So, when a supervisor new to a work team, division or region complains immediately about a worker whose record has been exemplary, or at the least, never problematic, pause. Ask the supervisor to be specific. If the complaints are personal attacks and unrelated to actual work performance, the problem is most likely the new supervisor. Would that supervisor benefit from management training? If she or he never received any, training might be beneficial.
Whatever you do, do not allow the new supervisor to impose a performance improvement plan (PIP) on the veteran employee until the supervisor has been immersed in the work for at least a year. Then, and only then, can the supervisor’s perspective be considered credible.
The root cause of most initial friction is the failure to exchange honest expectations between managers and team members. The longer the team has been intact, the clearer their norms are. When a new manager comes on the scene full of expectations about how work needs to get done but does not explicitly express them, everyone is left guessing. And most will guess wrong. Clarity comes from open expression of “how we did things here before you came” coupled with “how I want to see things done.” Then at such an open meeting, let the negotiations begin. With no side dominating the other, agreement can be reached and interpersonal flare-ups avoided.
If this isn’t done, the manager will be wrongly perceived as a bully wishing to dominate the team. The manager will wrongly believe the team is intransigent, locked into resisting her or his instructions. Both sides misunderstand and misrepresent because they have not had the open discussion during the earliest phase of the transition to new management. Problems are preventable with a small investment in people skills.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 5th, 2013 at 8:00 am and is filed under Tutorials About Bullying. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.