Hmmm, what are you doing here ― reading this?
If you’ve been attracted by the title of this, there is a fair chance you may have a nagging feeling that something may be wrong. I’d also guess that you are generally a caring sort of person too, full of great intentions ― but perhaps, shall we say, a little on the determined side? Yes, I know, you’re misunderstood.
To be frank, if you are a bully and don’t care, you probably will not have got this far. At the opposite end of the scale, if you are here because you are being bullied, make sure and read to the end.
The problem for ambitious people is that there is often a fine line between driving for results and being regarded as a bully. The line is also unclear and open to interpretation. Nobody deserves to be bullied and it is the responsibility of well-meaning determined individuals to make sure they do not cross that line as they march up the corporate ladder.
So, assuming you are here with an open mind and wish to explore this sensitive topic in a constructive and very personal way (just between the two of us), here are some behaviours that are often associated with bullies:
- Interrupting and talking over other people.
- Demanding things at short notice.
- Forcing people to do things that they don’t want to do.
- Closing down meetings and conversations before others have had their say.
- Dodging questions and giving political answers.
- Not listening to others’ ideas and suggestions.
- Publically favouring or disfavouring individuals.
- Being intolerant of fools.
- Telling lies and being dishonest for convenience.
- Working on a ‘need to know’ basis, holding back information until absolutely necessary.
- Reacting aggressively when challenged.
- Carelessly (or rudely) dismissing ideas.
- Taking undue credit for work done by others.
- Speaking before thinking and upsetting people.
- Asking several people to do the same thing independently.
- Allowing others to take unfair responsibility for problems.
- Cancelling meetings at short notice.
- Demonstrating prejudice when conversing with people.
- Telling people what to do and how to do it.
- Being tactile on the borders of appropriateness.
- Regularly changing your mind, especially without telling people.
- Using negative office politics to get things done.
- Publically criticising poor performance.
- Giving helpful(!) feedback about the ‘person’ rather than the ‘performance’.
- Closely monitoring work ― micromanaging.
- Using inappropriate humour.
- Taking feedback personally and being defensive.
- Using emotional blackmail to get your way. In fact, using any sort of blackmail!
- Knowing all the answers.
- Asking people to do things without giving them a reason why.
- Making fun at the expense of juniors.
If you have persevered this far, there may be a little bit of denial going on right now in your mind. Yes, lots of the behaviours above are legitimate (or expedient) ways of getting things done. No, not all of them are bullying behaviours. Isolated occurrences do not mean you are a bully.
However, what you need to take care with is the overall pattern of your behaviour. If you are admitting (at least to yourself) that you are doing quite a few of them, and doing them quite often, you will need to take some action.
Here’s a little process to get you started:
- Run through the list and score each one on how strongly or frequently you favour the behaviour. Perhaps use a scale of 1-5.
- Pick out 3-4 high scoring behaviours which are most likely to cause you a problem.
- For each one:
- Why do you do it?
- What do you gain?
- How could you replace the behaviour without loss?
- What could you add to the behaviour to reduce the risk?
- If you do change, how might you benefit?
- Do you want to change the behaviour?
- Decide on one of these which you can really commit to changing. Consider:
- What could get in the way of change?
- Do you need help to change?
- Who can support you in changing?
- How will you know you are being successful?
- Start implementing now and review again in a month.
Organisations of all types desperately need people who are assertive and can drive through results. What none of them need is a bullied, harassed and disengaged workforce. What else can you do today to move forward in the right direction?
NB: If you are on the receiving end of these behaviours, I would strongly advise that you also take action and start by checking out the Workplace Bullying Institute (www.workplacebullying.org).
- The Ethics of Influence: Five Rules to Live By.
- Are You an Ethical Influencer? 21 Questions
- 23 Things You Could Do Today to Increase Your Influence
- Developing Tact and Diplomacy
- How to Protect Your Integrity.