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Bullying is NOT in your job description

This is an article I wrote on Linkedin a while ago. It resonated with so many people that when I read this recent article about Amnesty International's leaders, I thought it was worth reposting my article here.

Published in the international edition of 'The Guardian', it tells how "Amnesty International’s seven-member senior leadership team offered to resign after a damning report warned of a “toxic” working environment and widespread bullying." That's the thing about workplace bullying. It happens even in the most unexpected of places. In this case, the company now acknowledges that “Change has to happen in a realistic, structured and holistic way". However, not every workplace has existing processes in place or creates new ones to deal with these situations when they occur.

I hope you find the article interesting and I'd love to hear about your experiences in the organisations you've worked for. Have you experienced bullying first hand? How did the problems get resolved (if they did)?

"Let's face it; bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace affects us all. It is toxic. And it's becoming normalised. So we need to do something NOW. 

Bullies aren't messing around. Their behaviour has the sole intention of causing harm to another human being's emotional well-being, And there is NOTHING normal about that!

They systematically set out to abuse, belittle, intimidate, threaten, demean and/or aggressively dominate others. They take pleasure in shredding their victims self-esteem and in turning other staff against the victim. 

Even if legislation changes and leaders are held more accountable, we  all need to take personal responsibility for creating a psychologically safe workplace. 

This includes those who see it, ignore it, sweep it under the carpet, watch from the sidelines and say nothing. There are those who fear confrontation and decide to get on side with the bully, hoping that that will stop the bully from targeting them.

Newsflash! Bullies are deadly serious and don't care who they harm. So even if you do get on side with the bully, don't think you're safe. When the bully gets bored with their current victim; guess who could be IT next!

Silence is seen as consent. Keeping quiet signals that we are not only allowing the behaviour; we are actually condoning it. We become complicit.

It's time to STOP burying our heads in the sand hoping it will go away. It won't.

We all need to become more aware of what bullying behaviours look like and how it impacts each and everyone of us. We can't control another person's behaviour. What we can do is control how we allow other people's behaviour to impact us and those around us.

So what can employers do to call #timesup on bullying?

1. Set the tone for a safe, supportive, trust based workplace culture. As a leader your people look to you to promote the expectations of acceptable and unacceptable behaviours. Discuss with your teams the type of culture you want to create. Have everyone contribute and make them physically sign the document. Put a copy up in the staffroom and give everyone their own copy. This way every person can hold each other accountable for ensuring that the agreed expectations are met. If people breach the expectations, you must follow through. And these rules need to apply to everyone - NO exceptions.

2. Ensure you have an anti-bullying policy and a clear channel for reporting bullying and sexual harassment. Confirm that all staff know what the policy says and let them know that you will enforce the policy. Make sure that you give your staff a clear line of communication with those who can offer confidential professional help if they feel targeted or victimised.

3. Take concerns seriously and without judging. It takes a massive amount of courage for someone to report that they are being bullied, sexually harassed or both. So hearing someone tell them to "suck it up buttercup" or "I had to go through it" or "why don't you just grow some" is really not what they want to hear. 

4. Educate your staff. Give your people access to anti-bullying and assertiveness training. This not only gives them the tools to handle inappropriate behaviours before they escalate, it also shows that you are committed to creating an environment that is not only physically safe but also psychologically safe."

This is something I am passionate about because I believe that everyone has the right to 'Find your Voice; Speak your Truth and Stand in your Power'.

Over to you now...tell me about your experiences and thoughts on this and the Amnesty article. I'd love to hear what you think.

- Gail


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