Managing people effectively means getting the best out of everyone in the team.   This involves valuing their contribution, giving feedback constructively and engaging with the whole team to make sure they are working collaboratively to achieve their objectives. How, what and when you communicate is critical. The pressure to achieve can mean managers (and colleagues) fall into patterns of behaviour that leave people feeling unvalued, undermined and humiliated.  This is bullying and it’s never acceptable.  It can lead to a toxic culture, with high staff turnover, absenteeism and a demotivated, underperforming workforce. So why do businesses not act on it and root it out?    How do you tell the difference between robust performance management and bullying.

What is workplace bullying?

Most people think they know what it is… but when discussed on training courses, it becomes clear that people rationalise bullying as just ‘what they’re like’ or ‘how we behave ’round here’.   So clarity is key.   ACAS describes bullying as: “Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.” Examples could include:

  • aggression or verbal abuse
  • withholding information from or deliberately excluding an individual
  • making others feel upset, humiliated, threatened or vulnerable
  • excessive or under supervisionbullying at work
  • overruling a person’s authority or undermining skills and capabilities
  • setting impossible objectives

What is effective and robust performance management?

Managers do need to make sure that their team performs. But, this can and should be done with respect and dignity.  Being fair, reasonable and valuing people creates an inclusive workplace, where everyone is striving to achieve common goals. There is a clear difference between bullying and performance management. A legitimate exercise of management authority should include:

  • giving reasonable, achievable instructions and expecting them to be carried out
  • setting expected standards of performance supported by the performance management framework
  • giving legitimate, constructive and fair feedback of performance or behaviour at work
  • Creating a working culture where people feel valued and respected

What about the pressure on me?

It might be that you feel an unacceptable level of pressure coming from your own manager. If you are being undermined and humiliated by your manager, you are a victim of bullying and this is not acceptable. It’s important that you too can recognise the signs of bullying and at the very least use confidential support systems in place, or/and report these to your HR department.   This can be tough, especially if it’s a senior person dong the bullying.  If you are a bystander and witness bullying, you have a duty to take action.  Ignoring it is not an option – it can affect the individual and team’s wellbeing and mental health. Every organisation should be working to make sure that:

  • there is dignity at work of all employees
  • differences are valued and respected
  • the talents of all the workforce are used to the fullest
  • there are equal opportunities for all
  • acts of discrimination, exclusion and unfair treatment are prevented
  • effective and constructive communications are promoted
  • the management of conflict is supported
  • the workforce is educated to develop positive behaviours

This is not a pink and fluffy issue – it’s real, and it costs both the company and the individual.    To understand how to create an inclusive culture and develop positive leadership skills, get in touch.