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Advice for champions of positive change:working to end abrasiveness and bullying in the workplace

These days, with people feeling increasingly downtrodden, dignity is a word you don’t hear very often, but a movement is taking place to bring it back into the limelight. Dignity at Work is the latest catchphrase used to describe a positive workplace environment where harmonious, productive and profitable organization thrives while public displays of aggression, humiliation and organizational indifference are laid to rest.

If the idea of changing dynamics within your workplace environment sounds appealing to you, you may be a champion of positive change, but first you need to know where to begin. Here are the key steps to get you started...

  • Identify the problem
  • Be informed. Knowing your facts increases leverage for your cause
  • Gather data from employee surveys and case studies
  • Use training programs to bolster your data (keep track of attendance, resistance to participation and evaluations)
  • Provide opportunities for confidential reporting so you can identify hot spots within your organization
  • Review the research on the costs of workplace abrasiveness and bullying
  • Be sure to include costs as they pertain to healthcare, turnover, and litigation as well as pay-offs and investigations

Be a Strategist on Behalf of Change A firm understanding of the company’s priorities will inform your position for change. What are the values the company prizes the most? Altruism? Winning at any cost? Secrecy? Autocracy? For the greatest impact, pinpoint where the company stands in terms of culture and values, and then be sure that you are in alignment with them.

Counter Myths & Utilize the Research Gender is not a factor: Both women and men can be abrasive. Training, status, education, and psychological profile aren’t factors either. Some abrasive managers are fearful and insecure; others are aware of their behavior and use it to gain advantage. Be sure you can clearly identify the person’s motives. Here’s a useful tip: Most men think that bullying is a psychological problem, while women think of it as an organizational issue. Use this info to your advantage when arguing your case.

Assume the Role of Organizational Strategist Provide training in positive leadership and communication best practices but don’t assume that training alone will suffice. Keep in mind that one-on-one interventions are the only solution for lasting change when the abrasive behavior is coming from a single manager. Discuss the topic with colleagues from other firms. Learn their best practices and use them to promote your recommendations. Be patient. Currently there is no legislation to protect those who are targets of abrasive behavior, so you don’t have the defense of gender, sexual orientation or age on your side.

Find Your Allies More than likely you will find willing allies in other company leaders IF you give them enough facts to bolster your case. Provide a framework for the information so that it’s easy for them to relate. You want to avoid hyperbole. There are enough statistics and research to support your efforts without being intense or strident. People are often slow to change because they fear losing power and are afraid of the unknown. Empathy is a powerful motivator because it encourages a sense of solidarity.

If your organization is willing to deal with abrasive managers on an individual basis, you might want to consider the Creating Constructive Leaders Program from Confidence Connections. Based on sound research, proven strategies and client feedback, the 8-12 -week program includes an on-site assessment of the abrasive behavior and a substantive coaching intervention. For more information contact us directly. We promise that if we cannot help you, we will not take the assignment. Guaranteed.

This is one in a series of articles reviewing some of the outstanding research presented at the 7thIntl Conference on Workplace Bullying and Harassment held in Wales, June 2010.

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