Who is the Accidental Bully?
We have all seen them. Most of us have worked with them. Many of us will have failed to hold them to account.
At first glance you feel they are easy to distinguish from the communal garden variety of vindictive narcissistic bully. Because of this, they often pass unnoticed and unchecked in an office environment.
I am of course talking about the Accidental Bully. The Accidental Bully can be just as toxic towards your organisation as their more deliberate cousins.
Often, they are not aware of the carnage they wreak around them, which sadly, frequently goes unnoticed by senior managers.
- Casually putting people down
- Dismissiveness to colleagues – particularly junior ones
- Going for the cheap laugh at the victim’s expense
- Aggressive or overbearing behaviour to colleagues
- Generally demeaning behaviour
- Impervious to the thoughts of others.
I was reminded of the impact of the Accidental Bully by the 2017/2018 NHS Staff Survey results – where there are still close to 25% of staff reporting having been bullied in the last year, and the recent Stress Awareness month and upcoming Mental health Awareness week. As I thought on the latter two I wondered just how much stress and knock on mental health problems are related to bullying.
The Accidental Bully may be perceived as a key player in the team. They may be charismatic, they may be professional in many aspects of their work, but they are capable of destroying morale, team spirit, employee engagement and lives.
The symptoms of bullying can include stress of the victim(s), loss of self-confidence, reduced engagement within your organisation and serious health consequences – mental and physical. Ultimately the bullied person(s) will either perform less effectively or leave. Either way it is not good for your organisation or the individual.
So how can you tackle it?
- Be aware; Make sure you have effective systems for measuring whether you have a bullying problem – regularly.
- Take a stand: If you, as a manager you see behaviours which may constitute bullying, call it. This applies particularly with senior colleagues, where junior staff may be more reluctant to raise it.
- Have no exceptions: Ensure the standards apply equally to everyone in your organisation. No -one should be too big, senior or successful to be pulled-up. Bullying is wrong, whoever the culprit.
- Stop it early: This is not only for the good of the organisation but the individual bullies too. At the end of the day an early conversation may stop damage all around later.
And one final thought: Management is a privilege; Leadership is an even greater privilege. They both carry with them a duty. A duty of care and decency and a duty to develop (I would go so far as to say nurture too).
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