‘Rule by fear’, ‘only interested in what is in it for them’, ‘opinionated and
arrogant’, ‘scared yes-men who wouldn’t rock the boat’.
Do any of these descriptions sound familiar? Meet the workplace bully in all
A recent research project conducted with Cass Business School set out to
identify the key attributes and differentiators of talented employees with
senior management potential in the financial and manufacturing sectors. But we
got rather more than we bargained for.
Many senior managers surveyed could identify at least one colleague whose
behaviour and integrity left much to be desired in the bullying stakes. But in
all instances, their negative behaviour was linked to ineffectiveness in the
role. For some, it is the pressure of the job, coupled with inappropriate
competencies that cause them to display these negative characteristics. For
others, the traits were always there.
The fact is, when people move into senior positions, they often find
themselves outside their comfort zone – all of a sudden they are under pressure
to make complex decisions that not only have significant consequences, but are
Managers, who fail to build a strong team around them and harness the support
and talent of others, can find themselves in a very stressful and isolated
There are some practical ways that you can tackle bullying. First, bullies
need to know their behaviour is not acceptable. Every time inappropriate
behaviour goes unchallenged it implies it is acceptable to both the individual
and those around. Find an immediate opportunity to give fair but challenging
New managers should also be made aware that bullying tactics do not equate to
effective leadership. Perhaps, they have been managing in this inappropriate way
for many years, in which case coaching is an effective way to reframe their
Arm them with new and effective management tools and give them scope to
practise them to successfully integrate them into new ways of working.
Cindy Mahoney is head of talent management at Fairplace
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