Four Things the Workplace Bully Can Teach You

Some of the best lessons of my life have been from people I didn’t necessarily like and since we are close to Thanksgiving, I want to give thanks for all that I have learned about relationships, boundaries, authentic communication and self-worth.

Like almost everyone I know, I’ve  had bosses lacking  people skills, and I’ve worked with Drama Queens, Queen Bees, and everything in between. In my personal life, I’ve  had an occasional friend or colleague blindside me or offer a sting or jab at my most vulnerable moment.

In my Stop the Workplace Drama programs I refer to these people as the Persecutor, the upper left position on the Karpman Drama Triangle.  In corporate speak, the persecutor is the person responsible for disruptive behavior. Most of the time we resist what the persecutors in our life can teach us  What I want to talk about here is the four things the persecutor in your life, whether that be a sarcastic co-worker, jealous friend, or even a workplace bully can teach you about yourself, about workplace relationships and about workplace conflict.

1. What is Not Acceptable
Until you experience the pain of a rude comment, a public humiliation or a blindsided sarcastic jab, you may not even think much about how you want to be treated. The good thing about experiencing unwanted emotions is you get to claim what is totally unacceptable.

As a manager or HR director, if  you continue to allow the  disruptive behavior to continue, you risk your own self-esteem, not to mention a possible workplace harassment claim or lawsuit years later.

2. Where You Need to Speak Up
If you are allowing the behavior after, let’s say two times, you need to look inward. Why is it OK with you to let it slide? Are you afraid of a fight? Were you taught in your family not to make waves?

What I have learned is that we handle conflict the way we first learned to handle it…from the original organization we were a part of  and that is our family. Personal growth is about healing the past and learning new ways to cope instead of using the excuse, “that’s not the way I was raised.”

If you are the HR manager, or the leader, I ask you the same question: Why are you letting it slide? Are there no policies to support you, or do you not have the skills to address the issue?  Read on.

3. What Skills You Need to Learn
If you are not speaking up or not reporting the bad behavior, I have a hunch it’s because you don’t feel confident about the skills you need to avoid “biting the hook.” On a personal level perhaps you’ve tried speaking up before and what you get is “You’re just too sensitive,” or “I’m just teasing.”  One of the skills you need is to release resistance and simply say, “Perhaps I am too sensitive, however I’m asking that you discontinue (the unwanted behavior).

On the corporate level if you are in charge and you are letting it slide because you don’t have the skills, then you MUST get some coaching or training to nip this problem in the bud. If you have learned some of the skills then it stands to reason the problem is how you see yourself. Perhaps you see yourself as one who needs to be liked, rather than one who will sacrifice being liked to lead the team in the right direction.

4. The Way You See Yourself
If you see yourself as helpless, that means you identify with the victim role on the triangle.  In my book, Stop Workplace Drama, I talk about this in the fourth principle of “Reinvent and Realign.” The way you see yourself has everything to do with the way you lead, the way you respond to others and frankly the BS you allow in your relationships.

Start seeing yourself as a powerful creator who is relationship oriented and that viewpoint alone will start to change your style of communication. Yep, that’s even without taking all the communication courses and learning about “I messages.”

If there is a bully, a sarcastic co-worker, a rude boss, or a game player, look at that person as a wise sage who came into your life to teach you what you need to learn so that you can up your leadership game, gain strength through authentic communication and be more of who you showed up in this world to be.

Points to Ponder
1. Who is in my life that triggers a drama response within me?
2. What are my options about speaking up or setting a boundary?
3. Why do I resist confronting the problem or speaking to this person?
4. What skills do I need to learn to deal with this situation?
5. What is the best growth that could happen for me and for this person?

marlene2Marlene Chism is a consultant, national speaker and author of Stop Workplace Drama (Wiley 2011). Marlene’s passion is developing wise leaders and helping people to discover, develop and deliver their gifts to the world.

Marlene’s message is spreading across the country at association meetings, corporate retreats, universities and other venues. If interested in exploring speaking or training opportunities please call 1.888.434.9085