Bullying at the Workplace: How to Deal with it as a Manager

When you think “bullies”, what comes to mind? For most people, it’s staunch, narrow-eyed playground punks stealing your lunch money and shoving you into lockers. But bullying isn’t reserved for school territory. I’ve heard more than my fair share of stories that prove bullying is very much alive in big kids in the workplace. 

Here is one of those stories. 

One of the saleswomen I’ve been coaching recently attended a face-to-face meeting with a client (male). She was accompanied by her manager (also male). During the meeting, this saleswomen was informed that she had the opportunity to increase customer spend. Naturally, she curiously enquired what it would take to achieve this. She was informed by the client that she would need to join him and his wife for a “threesome.” 

It wasn’t a joke, and the saleswoman wasn’t laughing. 

Hurt, humiliated, and demoralized, the woman didn’t know what to do. To make matters worse, her manager didn’t do anything to defend her or control the client’s behavior. 

Because the customer’s always right, right? This woman isn’t the only victim of workplace bullying. In fact, studies show that at least 75% of employees have either experienced or witnessed harassment at work. 

While we can’t avoid bullying at the workplace, we can arm our people with the wisdom they need to handle it when it rears its ugly head. Here are the 5 D’s of workplace bullying intervention. Be a manager who stands up for your salespeople and helps navigate harassment at work! 

1. DIRECT. 

Encourage people to speak up. You can’t fix that which you don’t know is broken. Make sure your team knows that your door is always open, and that they can talk to you anonymously if they feel threatened, victimized, or humiliated – whether they are directly involved or witnessed an incident. 

2. DOCUMENT. 

If someone tells you they’re being bullied at work, ask them for details. Record the date, time, the name of the bully, intricacies of the events, where it happened, who else was there, and the like. This is crucial to monitor repeat offenders as part of your workplace bullying intervention strategy. 

3. DELAY.

Sometimes, immediately diving in to speak to the victim when the wound is still raw isn’t the best idea. Once the incident is over and the dust has settled, check in with the victim. Not only will this help them explain the order of events when they’re in a better state of mind, but they’ll also see that you care enough to follow-up with them even when the incident is “over” (for now). 

4. DELEGATE.

As much as you might not want to hear it, you might not be the person the victim wants to talk to about what happened. If you know of someone else that’s closer to them at work – or someone who’s been through something similar – consider asking them to intervene. Perhaps someone else has more experience as the direct recipient of harassment. 

5. DISTRACT.

If you happen to witness an incident, a direct approach isn’t always the best solution for managing bullying at the workplace. To de-escalate the situation, consider being more indirect. Detract the offender’s attention to give the victim some time to move away. Think of all those cliché movie moments when someone needs to divert another’s attention. Perhaps you could accidentally spill your coffee or announce a client crisis. Whatever it takes, don’t be afraid to cause a commotion if it will help the victim get away. 

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Conquering Workplace Bullying – Together

As the founder of CGI, I believe that everyone has the right to work in a safe environment where they do NOT feel threatened or victimized via harassment at work. And remember – ANYONE can be a bully, from the new guy in IT to the senior manager who’s been there for 20 years. 

The worst part about workplace bullying is that it can be incredibly subtle and hard to identify – unless you’re the victim. That’s why it’s so important to encourage your people to speak up, whether they’ve been abused verbally, physically, or emotionally. 

For more ideas and advice on managing bullying at the workplace, don’t hesitate to start a conversation with me today. I’ve been in your shoes, and – more importantly – I’ve spent years deciphering how to climb out of them. A huge part of what I do is empowering salespeople (particularly women) with all they need to feel safe and confident in their positions. Now, I am ready to show you how to do the same. 

Click this link to place some time on my calendar.

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