Management 101: Upholding the line of workplace bullying

The line of management is a line that must be held.

I don’t know exactly where it came from or how that came to be part of my thinking as I developed as a young manager, but the reality is it did become part of my understanding of management. Yet, as my experience and knowledge grew, and I became older and wiser, my thoughts changed and this one didn’t sit comfortably with me as it once did.

Ultimately, I came to view this management style as one that had works to maintain not only order, but to maintain power and control. Unfortunately, where you have power and control, you also have a greater likelihood of workplace bullying.

This style of management has also been referred to as the “old boy’s club”. In their school days, boys learned to guard and protect their territory and status by bringing in peers who reflected their culture and background. As we do with much of what we learn when we are younger, we then take this into our adult world and replicate it. We create a culture of protection.

One of the problems is that when you have this type of culture, bullying type behaviours are able to thrive. Standing behind the line of management, can result in not questioning our management peers and the systems we have developed. This might be because we have a good relationship with the person who is the accused. Some bullies can be manipulative. We can play right into their hands by holding the management line.

On top of this, we may continue to hold that line by choosing not to believe an employee who has raised concerns about others behaviours towards them. In fact, we might label them as weak and incompetent. We look at them as being the wrong fit for our company. We may come together to push that individual out altogether. We act in ways that are tribal in nature.

What can we do to change this and contribute to a bullying resistant workplace?

  1. Ask the question does this sound like my workplace or my management approach?
    Understanding yourself and your biases will help you become a better leader in your company.
  2. If someone approaches you stating they are being targeted with inappropriate behaviours by one of your management peers, do you find yourself not believing them?
    If your answer to this question is yes, ask yourself in what circumstance could this be true to help balance your perspective.
  3. Ask questions of your employees.
    Asking questions of your employees helps you to understand the culture and their experience. This can be done formally through methods like culture and workplace bullying audits and investigations; or informally through chatting with employees. This is unlikely to be successful if they do not feel safe to share their thoughts, therefore the method you choose needs to fit your company’s current culture.
  4. Act on the behaviour.
    If you find that there are reports of bullying type behaviour, act. This doesn’t always have to be formal performance management. If intervention is early enough, it can be learning and development for that individual. However, if it isn’t addressed early enough, formal performance management may be your only option.

Are you curious to learn more about preventing and stopping workplace bullying?

Contact us now to start the conversation

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