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Managers bullying employees: how can you deal with it?

by , 25 February 2016
When one thinks of bullying in general, let alone bullying in the workplace, one pictures a 'big and strong' kid picking on a 'weak' one.

It could also be a group trying to weed out those whom they do not tolerate or accept, leading to a form of ostracism, reject, and a perception of helplessness and 'weakness'.

While this definitely happens, this perception of the 'weak' being the only victims couldn't be farther from the truth.

The fact of the matter is that bullying can just as easily be directed towards the 'strong'.

For example, a manager might view a good employee as a threat to her status, reputation or sense of pride in the workplace. And this triggers a bullying attitude towards them out of insecurity.

It could even be deep-seated jealousy which triggers a bullying attitude.

Let's take a look at a plausible scenario here...


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Sarah is a manager in ABC Company.

She is a perfectionist in the workplace and has a reputation as being a tough and 'respected' manager.

Jane is an employee under Sarah, who is diligent, giving her best while maintaining a good relationship with other employees in the workplace.

There are even rumours that she's a natural leader and the thought of her taking Sarah's position away leads to deep-seated jealousy and insecurity.

Sarah then begins making Jane's life very difficult. She becomes very critical of Jane to the point where she questions her own ability to do the job. Sarah makes unreasonable demands of Jane, withholds certain information from Jane until the last minute before complaining that she's late for meeting deadlines.

She deliberately does so to make Jane's life as difficult as possible and then makes it look like Jane is unable to do her job.

All the other employees who might know of this behaviour don't want to speak out as they are afraid their job security may be on the line.

What's more is that Jane, who hasn't been working at the company for nearly as long as Sarah, believes that HR will never believe her story, and so she goes looking for other employment.
How can you deal with this?

This appears to be a very complex situation.

For example, you may have a very good relationship with the manager…

But the fact of the matter is that alliances do not outweigh fairness in the workplace.

You should be concerned about co-operation in the company and not competition. Because it's exactly that which will ensure the effective and efficient functioning of the company.

And so it must be said that your objectiveness is of the utmost importance when dealing with a situation like this.

You should encourage your employees to lodge a complaint and make use of your grievance procedure, regardless of the level or position of the alleged bully.

This should be coupled with the reassurance that all employees that your company values impartiality.

NOTE: Bullying, such as what was discussed in the above scenario, is often very subtle and can easily occur without others really knowing much about it.

So you need to vigilant in picking up patterns in the workplace.

Remember that at the end of the day, you are required BY LAW, under the Protection from Harassment Act, to provide a working environment void of bullying. And that should it ever arise, you'll protect them.
*To learn more on bullying in the workplace, page over to chapter B 03 in your Practical Guide to Human Resources Management handbook, or click here to order your copy today. 

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