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Bullies at work

Posted by Sri Subramanian (@whosissri) on September 28, 2011


I volunteer for an anti bullying program for kids.

We have found that the best antidote to bully behavior is the bystander who is neither the victim, nor the bully. We teach her to go to the kid who is getting excluded from the play, and say: “I am done playing soccer. I would like to shoot hoops. Will you join me?”

As adults, we know that bullying happens, more often than not, when we are not present. Our job is to empower the bystander and call on bad behavior, as ways to prevent bullying. Our job also is to take action and protect victims from bullies.

We have bullies at work too. They are the ones who point fingers, pass blame, call names, don’t carry their weight, or shoot down every thought before it can develop. They sap energy and frustrate people around them. As managers, we have the same responsibility to empower our team against bullies. But when someone in our team is the bully, we have the choice to focus our energy on coaching the bully, or on helping the others get on with life without the bully.

What is your choice?

6 Responses to “Bullies at work”

  1. Meg Bear said

    Excellent point Sri. I agree that I have observed more than my fair share of bully behavior in my career. It is up to all of us to make sure the message is clear that it is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. If you find yourself needing help your friends in the HR function should be able to give you some good pointers as well.

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  3. […] Subramanian presents Bullies at work posted at TalentedApps. What is the key to effectively stopping bullies in the […]

  4. Becky said

    Getting bullied at work in a call centre of about 50+ on my shift. Reason: I was part of the gang and realized they were badmouthing co-workers. I slipped and said the people were doing wrong. I tried to leave quietly but had made 2 comments the had put me their #1 target. Nobody says the leader is wrong even their best friend. Dropping ranks in a week. Not problem was leaving anyways. I don’t need that kind of bad energy/karma. She threatened me in the smoking area next day. 4 witnesses and by time hr got to speaking with the only one said the truth. Hr believed her as had been there yrs longer then anyone involved. The other 3 were instantly in the group. That was last august. There is constant “whispering” about me. The “gang” is now about 20 strong. If I talk to somebody they make sure to add the person to their group. Its now June I’ve cracked. My blood pressure hit 174/101 and got wk leave. The leader of the gang actually asked HR if I quit. HR said more then legally should but apologized as didn’t realize got sucked in. Gang leaders aren’t stupid. They are manipulative and most time bordering on psychotic. Hr has even said it is almost hostile in the break room. What me listening to a table of about 10 people talk about me in she/her terms? I’m sitting there playing solitaire as my “quiet place.” They made sure the unused office was now locked. Today went to dr. Blood pressure in normal range with help from meds. Which would be great if he didn’t ask why high to start. Broke down in office. Now I have a note off work until further notice. I can’t expect anyone to come to my safety here. I spoke up and look what happened to me. I can’t ask that of another. Just trying to explain some of these work bullies don’t act alone. They have a leader or 2. Then the main friends everyone aims to be. That group is trying to get closer to the main so will do anything. Then there is the ones I call the followers Level 3. They get loured into the whole web. They are the ones who if school yard stuff would watch. They might even cheer too. Some will do anything to get to Stage 2 level. Anyone making friends with me has 2 issues. The gang now making them enemy #2 and me 2nd guessing if trying to be friends to gather info for gang. All these things happen in schools and workplace. Gang hierarchy same and they used the same tools to distroy their “enemy” Hope this helps from somebody going through it. I’m printing this off for my HR. She will understand the comic too. She knows happening but with no proof and so many against one hands tied.

    • Sri Subramanian said

      Becky, it looks like you have a tough workplace that needs more up-standers. Wish you and HR the best with helping people help each other.

      • Becky said

        Thanks…seems even though HR knows stuff happening we have no proof. Feelings or sensations of hostility don’t seem to count. Today I took in DR note for 90days off stress leave. Problem was I was an Up-stander. They were picking on workmates for their size etc. Just to laugh at somebody. I said it wasn’t nice and tried to get out of the group gracefully. When they commented on a coworkers clothing was final straw. I’d had enough and the slightest thing bugged me. The leader threatened me in smoking area infront of 4 witnesses. They got integrated into the group. They started a war on my character. 3 of the 4 lied to HR but she believed the one on my side. Nothing can do as no proof. I can’t ask anyone to do like I did. We’ll see if med stuff settled before HR person goes on mat leave. The person covering for her won’t have seen the stuff happening. They are a very manipulative group. Trying to make friends for the sole purpose of gathering more info. They asked HR if I’d quit last week acting all concerned. Yet when I came back nobody asked if OK. Hr is basically out of the loop. Thanks for the well wishes.

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