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Dealing with the Bully one to one


There are a lot of courses which deal with bullying in the workplace through management styles, diversity etc. A lot of these handle it from the victim's perspective . However, does anyone have a particular approach for dealing with a bully (who has been warned by senior management) on a one to one basis. The person is very defensive on the subject.
Ian Redpath

9 Responses

  1. Legal
    If an employer knows there is a bully in the workplace then there is a positive duty to act.

    This is protective towards other staff but also for the employer who is at real risk of litigation if the bullying is allowed to continue.

    We assist businesses with this issue by assessment of the situation, conciliation with the bully and the employer and then monitoring through 360% feedback from the workplace over time.

    For those who respond well to the training and assistance then it is a behavioural issue which can be trained in another direction.

    Sadly not all bullies respond to this sort of approach and then we have to advise on the job role and capability issues before consideration of commencing disciplinary proceedings. Staff hanbooks should reflect zero tolerance of this sort of behaviour and outline the process for dealing with bullies in the workplace.

    0870 240 4325

  2. Bullies: Training or Therapy needed? (and other questions)
    >>> However, does anyone have a particular approach for dealing with a bully (who has been warned by senior management) on a one to one basis. The person is very defensive on the subject.
    Ian Redpath

    I am not sure, Ian, whether you mean dealing with the bully as a trainer or as a target? (Tim Field of bullyonline suggests the description ‘Target’ rather than Victim, partly because it focuses attention on the bully.)

    If I am invited in as an external trainer, I will explore in what way, how often and by which manager(s) has the bully been warned? What are the known, suspected or feared consequences of ‘whistle blowing’? What consequence has the bully been threatened with, and is the threat taken seriously? Is the threat TO the bully greater
    or lesser than the threats from the bully?
    To what extent is this particular bully merely reflecting what they have witnessed or experienced in the workplace? (How) does the behaviour of both bully and target reflect the real or perceived organisational culture (bearing in mind that perception is ‘reality’), e.g. is it a macho culture?

    I will not only want answers to the above, I will also be curious as to ‘why now’? Why not an internal mediator? What has already been done or attempted? Who has real power – as opposed to mere position (a lot of managers are bullied by people they manage!).
    I also ask about the desired outcomes of my potential involvement. Do they want a quick fix, a symptomatic solution, a smoke screen? Are they trying to shut the target up or do they have a more ambitious outcome such as the bully’s evolution as a human being?
    If it looks, feels and sounds like a one bully / one target / one trainer / one session / one fudge / one problem situation, and if I can’t influence the people who are talking to me, I am unlikely to want to get involved (I have my principles!!)

    Lastly, if the person is defensive it suggests, as does most bullying behaviour, an insecure immature person who may need a therapeutic rather than a training intervention. If they are unable to recognise the cause and effect, or even accept the evidence of other people’s senses, there may be something psychological or pathological or physiological that needs to be addressed, so they may well defend!

    Go well

    Michael Mallows

  3. Discipline
    Sorry to be old fashioned about this but zero tolerance should mean just that. Start with discipline. training may be appropriate as a follow on but certainly not as an alternative. This sounds like passing the buck or not doing the disciplinary interview with sufficient depth/vigour in the first place

    [email protected]

  4. bullying – find out why
    You need to identify the cause before you can be sure of finding the right treatment for the symptoms. People behave in a way that is functional for them. In this case bullying has a ‘good’ outcome for the individual. If you can find out what this ‘good’ outcome is then you can help him/her to achieve it in another way that does not involve bullying. Of course if they are unwilling to change then ther is nothing you can do about it. I have not found a shortcut method to do this. I use a process, called Elective Language Theory, based on Kelly’s Theory of Personal Constructs. It is time consuming but also a very accutate predictor of behaviour.

  5. Bullying – Tactics
    The bully website is excellent. I saw a programme on the BBC Learning Zone once which said that you should never pander to a bully. i.e. don’t try to please them and don’t argue – you will always lose and they will not think well of you either way. Their advice was that you should try agreeing with them. E.g. if they were to say something like “you are always late for work” even though it might not be true, try implying you agree with them and say “do you have any tips on how to overcome the problem?”. This usually has the effect of silencing them and generally speaking, bullies don’t like awkward silences. I’ve tried this myself and it worked!
    However, depending on how serious it is and whether or not it is a resolvable situation, the solution often is to leave.

  6. Both – I think
    I agree with some of the correspondents on here in that the disciplinary route should be invoked around cases of bullying and that zero tolerance should be just that. However if you sack or transfer a bully all you do is pass the problem to someone else, that’s not an issue if the individual has low value to the company or is a recent addition to the workforce but assuming the individual has been with the company a while then training may help to protect the business investment.

    It’s important that during the disciplinary proceedings that the bully recognises they have an issue – if they don’t you can’t train them to change because they won’t see a need for it. If they do recognise the issue you could try one to one training to resolve it but I would recommend that the individuals involved with the bully in the day to day working environment are asked to participate in training where they are helped to confront the bully’s behaviour in order for the bully to recognise when their behaviour is destructive and amend accordingly. I have used this method with some success in call centres but it will require full buy in from both the bully’s colleagues and the bully to be truly effective.

    If one to one training is the only solution the bully’s victims or colleagues should be regularly asked to feedback instances where they felt intimidated so that these examples can be used to help amend the behaviour.

    This one isn’t easy, good luck.

  7. No simple answer
    My experience on this subject would suggest there is no simple answer.
    The following comments are assuming that you have investigated the allegations and conclude that the manager is actually bullying. If no investigation has taken place then you may be in some legal difficulties with the accused manager.
    I would suggest that the crux of your issue relates to the “bullys” perception of the sanction for the inapropriate behaviour. Their perception may be created for a number of reasons, including;
    – there is no harassment policy in place at all.
    – the harassment policy is ineffective because it is loose or watery in its outline of appropriate / inappropriate behaviour
    – how was the issue addresses with the “bully” ? – if it was a casual chat then this will send a very strong message to them not to worry about the issue to hand. If on the other hand it was a full disciplinary / harrassment investigation then you can be sure they are rightly concerned about their employment prospects and will have immediately changed their behaviour.
    – is the Senior Manager someone who actually has “power” in the organisation to carry out the sanction they outline? Does the bully see them as having this power?

    I believe that to effectively deal with this type of inappropriate behaviour you must switch on the light for them as to the outcome of the road they are heading along. This should be done formally and recorded so that they clearly see that you are actually serious about changing their behaviour. My experience of effectively dealing with this type of person is that until a formal investigation actually begins or is discussed they will be dismissive. Once the process is muted or begun they will see the significance of their behaviour.

    Once you get them to accept that their behaviour must change then there are a number of approaches you can take, ranging from coaching to councelling by a psychologist.
    One other comment is that the warning by Senior Management may not be part of the disciplinary process and as such will not be a way to demonstrate diligence in managing harassment in the workplace.

  8. GROW Coaching Model
    Hello Ian

    I agree with all the other comments made, especially about reinforcing the seriousness of the situation. However, to help the bully understand the situation and impact on the other person better, you might want to try one of the following:

    The ‘GROW’ coaching model (Effective Coaching by Myles Downey) which gets the individual to explore the current situation (reality) in detail and identify options.

    Alternatively, you might want to try a NLP tool which gets the individual to summarise the situation from their own point of view, then from the individual’s point of view, and then from the view point of an observer. (I get the person to actually move chairs and speak as if they were the person). I think it’s called a ‘metta mirror’. But it has to be used when the individual is in the ‘right’ frame of mind.

    The other useful tool for the victim and for the bully is Transactional Analysis. This helps change the way one responds to a situation and makes comments ‘adult to adult’ rather than ‘parent to child’. Try Counselling for Toads by Robert De Board as an interesting introductin to TA.



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