Dealing with workplace bullying situations is always a challenging task. There are, however, circumstances where the complexity and the challenges faced by the responsible authorities are even greater than usual. This post discusses two such situations representing questions and dilemmas recently raised by concerned individuals during a TAL Global presentation.
What if the workplace bully is your best client’s representative?
This is a delicate situation. On the one hand, you don’t want to put up with the bullying; on the other hand, you don’t want to antagonize and lose your best client. Still, there are several possible solutions:
- Discuss internally with your superior(s) and other relevant coworkers and seek advice as to how to handle the situation. It is best to handle these types of issues at the lowest possible level.
- Consider discussing the issue with someone more senior or a manager at the bully’s workplace. Companies don’t want to be represented by a bully whose behavior can reflect negatively on the entire organization. They may already know that this individual is a bully and may be thankful that you alerted them to the situation.
- Find ways to be increasingly but gradually more assertive when communicating with the bully. Bullies gain satisfaction from achieving control and dominance, so taking this satisfaction away by being very businesslike, and by not allowing the bullying to have an effect, may go some way toward mitigating the situation and rectifying the bullying behavior.
- Consider confronting the bully head on in a professional but firm way. Bullies will continue their behavior as long as they are allowed. When confronted in a thoughtful way, and upon seeing that they no longer have control of the situation, they often stop their abusive behavior.
- If nothing else works, be prepared to lose this client. Putting up with a bully should not be the cost of doing business.
What if the workplace bully is a member of and/or is represented by a union?
This, again, is a situation where the affiliation of the bully injects an added element of complexity into an already complicated situation. But here too, there are several ways to handle the situation constructively:
- Discuss the issue internally with your boss and other appropriate coworkers, and seek advice on how to best handle the situation. It is best to handle these types of issues at the lowest possible level.
- Inform the bully’s supervisor about the evolving situation, and ask her/him to explore dealing with the issue at that level.
- Review the union’s bargaining agreement (contract), and see if it lists remedies for such an issue or has information that can help you develop a strategy to resolve the situation.
- Speak with the union representatives and seek their advice and assistance. While union representatives have an obligation to defend and represent union members, they are likely to assist in this situation. Having a bully as a union member causes issues for union representatives, and the bully’s actions reflect badly on the entire organization. Union representatives, like you, are likely to want to resolve this issue at the lowest possible level.
- Speak with the bully and present your concerns. It is best to do this in the presence of the bully’s manager and/or union representative. Set up a meeting to discuss the issue and work on ways to resolve it.
- Find ways to be increasingly but gradually more assertive when communicating with the bully. Bullies are empowered by control and dominance, so take action to deny that power by closing this path for the bully.
- Consider confronting the bully head-on in a professional but firm way. Bullies will continue their behavior as long as they are allowed. When confronted in a thoughtful way, and if they realize that they no longer have control of the situation, they often stop the behavior.
If you have specific questions about how to handle sensitive workplace violence situation, please contact us. We’ll be happy to help.