We frequently hear about bullying among young people; it could be at school, on playgrounds, or wherever groups of youngsters share space.

Sadly, bullying is much more widespread than that, and yes, it also happens in the workplace. It could be a co-worker; it may even be your boss!

The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.
–Jim Rohn

Be Bold, Not a Bully

This week Rutgers basketball coach, Mike Rice, was fired for abusing his players. Videos of the physical and verbal abuse are all over the internet – why did no one speak up and escalate this issue?

As humans, and especially as leaders, we must take responsibility and be cognizant when behaviors such as verbal and physical abuse, harassment, discrimination, and abuse of power occur.

It’s been reported that almost half of the U.S. workforce has observed some kind of bullying on the job. That’s staggering! So what’s to be done?

  • We need to watch for behaviors that just “feel” wrong. These could be behaviors that the bully exhibits, and it also includes behaviors the victim may exhibit. Some to be aware of from a bully include: insults, threats, name calling, yelling, humiliation, inappropriate humor, sarcasm, and perhaps even pushing, slapping, or hitting.
  • Others that are not so obvious are excluding a person from being involved, omitting someone from email rosters, not sharing updates, the lack of recognition for accomplishments, regular interruptions, dominating meetings, and taking credit for the work of others.
  • Also watch out for behaviors from a victim.  They may be afraid to speak up, there may an increase in sick time, their quality of work may suddenly drop, and they may appear tense and nervous.  There may be others reasons for these behaviors, but check it out.

As a leader, we want teams and organizations to be collaborative and empowering. In order for this to occur, we must address inappropriate behaviors as soon as we observe them, or when they are brought to our attention.

Describe the complaint(s) or observed behavior(s) to the bully. Be specific, ask them for their thoughts, and establish a clear action plan for moving forward.  Check to see if your company has policies for addressing bullying. In some cases having a one on one may address and resolve the problem. Other situations may require formal documentation and escalation to HR or higher management.

Bottom line – don’t ignore it! Not addressing inappropriate behaviors reduces company morale, creates higher turnover, and impacts the ability to achieve desired results. Taking action will save you time; time = money!

As Jim Rohn says, take the challenge to be (and accept) bold, but not bully!