How Leaders Never Tolerate Bullying

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By Jas Singh

My son is about to start school. And naturally, like most parents, one of the things I am most worried about is the possibility of bullying.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s going to a fantastic school and my wife and I have selected the one that we feel is best for him. But we’re also realistic to know what the real world is like. What’s most reassuring is that most schools these days have a zero-tolerance policy to bullying.

If a child is caught bullying another child, they are immediately suspended.

In ten years working with over 13,000 people, it’s something I think all companies could learn from.

What is bullying?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, bullying is the “use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something”.

In other words pressurizing another person to do something against their will.

The problem is, with adults bullying can be a lot more subtle. Harder to pick-up and define. It’s not about getting pushed in corridor or being called names on the way home. It could be something much harder to “measure”.

Such as being excluded from the group and deliberately being ignored. Or being set-up to fail with the worst sales territory. Even a lack of respect and condescending tone.

I’m not an ideologist. But I can say for certain that many people I have worked with have experienced some level of bullying in the workplace and very little is done by most organisations about this. Unless it’s something specific that breaks specific employment law, millions of people every day just have to tolerate it, or (as the bullies often want) simply quit.

Needless to say, the best organisations never tolerate any level of bullying.

They thrive on equal respect and fairness from the tea-lady/man to the president.

Here are some ways how great leaders never tolerate bullying.

By raising awareness

Just like an unknowing parent and teacher, many leaders are often unaware about the bullying problem to start with.

“Bullying in my company? Don’t be so ridiculous!”.

Let me be pretty blunt about this.

Despite what you think, if the stakes are high and people are competing for pay, promotion or power, there is always a chance someone will try and take an unfair advantage. Especially in the “win-at-all-costs” business world.

And often that will mean trying to bully others to try and get an unfair advantage.

Any problem can only be solved by first raising awareness. All leaders must ensure that they are consistently aware of the fact that in any large competitive group, there is always the possibility for bullying to occur.

Great leaders understand human nature.

By consistently communicating at all levels

The reasons why most people get away with bullying in the work place is that the people they are bullying are often unable to communicate with the people who can help them.

In other words they find themselves trapped.

What’s worse, often bullying managers actually build strong “relationships” with their own bosses, making it even more difficult to escalate an issue.

Great leaders overcome this problem by making sure they personally interact with workers at all levels of the organisation.

If the foul-mouthed manager knows that his CEO will be regularly speaking with his team personally, he might think twice next time.

Great leaders communicate regularly at all levels.

By having a zero-tolerance policy

All this sounds pretty straight forward.

So what’s the problem?

The reason why most people get away with bullying in the workplace is that often they believe they have become “indispensable”.

We all know the successful sales manager who thinks the company would never fire him. Or the high-profile CEO whose saved his last three employers from bankruptcy. Or the Chairman’s incompetent sibling being looked after by big-bro. Sometimes this power, security and even previous success can result in people thinking they can do whatever they like.

But great leaders understand that no-one ever has the right to bully another person.

To succeed, the work-place needs to learn from kindergarten.

Bullying will be severely punished.

Conclusion

What can seem like a funny comment to most of us, can be devastating to the person being targeted.

Great leaders understand eliminating bullying is not just essential to a great workplace – it’s a reflection of their own ability as a leader.

Have you ever been bullied?

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