Three actions you can take to help change a bully’s behaviour

You know you have a problem. He is doing it again. You have spoken to him, but the pattern continues to be repeated and other employees are letting you know. They are continuing to be rubbed up the wrong way. You need to act.

When it comes to behaviours that are bullying or abrasive, we sometimes think the only option is termination for that employee. However, there are other alternatives.

When you have an employee in your company who uses bullying or abrasive type behaviours, there are specific actions you can take to manage the situation.

In this article, we present three key actions to support an employee change their bullying or abrasive workplace behaviours. This includes setting limits, setting consequences and offering help.

Abrasive versus bullying behaviour

You will notice above that I use the word abrasive as an alternative to bullying. I use this terminology because encourages indidivuals to stop and think before reacting. When we call a person a bully, or even use the word, it comes with an instant stigma. It’s an accusation that has an immediate impact, often placing that individual in a position where they feel they are being attacked. Therefore, they respond in defensive mode.

However, if you say to an individual “your behaviour is coming across as abrasive”, it can reduce the attack and defend response. As it is not common language that we use, the individual asks “what do you mean by abrasive?” Abrasive doesn’t carry the stigma that the word bullying now does.

Ultimately, we are creating an environment to encourage engagement, not discourage it, leading to an opportunity to create a successful outcome.

Another reason I use abrasive is as an early intervention approach. Not all individuals who use poor workplace behaviours have been identified as bullying in any formal way. However, many of us can see and identify an individual who repeatedly rubs others up the wrong way. Their behaviours are abrasive.

It is a warning sign for you to engage early before it becomes a bullying complaint; an opportunity to prevent escalation.

Three actions to help change abrasive behaviours

If you are to intervene early, there are three key actions we recommend to help you achieve positive change. These are:

  1. Set limits
    Limits clearly define your expectations for the individual and create boundaries. You are telling that individual “the way you interact with others has to change”.

  2. Set consequences
    “Failure for you to do so will result in…”

    Consequences can be mild (eg. revisiting the issue if the challenges continue or consider disciplinary action), moderate (eg. deny promotion) or severe (eg. termination).

  3. Offer help

    Many people fall into the mistake that a person who regularly uses abrasive or bullying type behaviours can change alone. Often, these behaviours come out of a life time of learning and fear based responses. They require support to help them see.

    You may have the skills and resources to do this within your company. However, if you don’t, external options, including our Abrasive Leaders Specialised Coaching Program, exist to help. External options also may provide a safe space of an abrasive leader to open up assisting the achievement of successful outcomes.

It is important to say that some abrasive employees either cannot or will not change. The individual needs to want to change for any chance to be successful.

However, if you act and offer help, you know you have done everything you can to try and resolve the problem, whether they accept help or not.

Learn more about our Abrasive Leader Specialist Coaching Program

Contact us today for a confidential discussion on how we can help you prevent and manage workplace bullying through this program.

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