I am currently working with a client who is suffering from an extreme case of bullying. It appears that the client has been advised by colleagues to watch out as his line manager (who I’ll call Mr C) is coming to town. My client has been further told that Mr C becomes apoplectic if he sees any signs of weakness in his staff – so has been advised by his colleagues that he’d better not pout or, worse still, cry.
Through coaching, my client has confided that he has been working twice his contracted hours. Consequently, he occasionally falls asleep during work time. However, he is concerned that his line manager has him under surveillance to check whether he’s sleeping or awake. He believes that when Mr C comes to town to undertake his appraisal, that it will not show how nice he’s been this year, but will take this opportunity to identify that he has been naughty. However, the main cause of my client’s anxiety is that Mr C creates an unspecified list when he comes to town and even goes to the extent of checking it twice! This is obviously an
extreme case of bullying which should not be tolerated.
Bruce Springsteen: Santa Clause is Coming To Town
But seriously! Most employers are reluctant to admit their managerial culture is based on, or includes, bullying. There is a body of research that suggests that bullying is counter-productive, but still there are employers who deliberately adopt a confrontational and aggressive approach to managing staff.
Some employers accused of bullying often claim that it isn’t bullying, it is simply a robust managerial approach; that staff should be able to deal with that by argument and debate. However, if you have experienced any similar issues, here are a few useful tips to help you to manage and take control of the situation:
- Be methodical in your behaviour and performance. It may feel difficult, but try to stay unemotional; reframe the situation as a technical process that has to be addressed.
- Even if you plan to look for another job, ensure you do not become a ‘victim’.
- Don’t let yourself get isolated. Perhaps pick out someone you haven’t talked to for a while to have a brief but focused conversation.
- Display positive self-esteem and present a positive attitude. Make your personal space an oasis of calm and taste.
- During a bullying situation, excuse yourself. Don’t beat a hasty retreat, and don’t leave the building; tell your abuser that you’re late for an appointment with HR, for example.
- The less you talk about your story to others at work, the better. Controlling what you say, when you say it and to whom needs to be part of your overall, well-organized strategy.