I was recently selected to present to human resources professionals at a SHRM conference. My topic was workplace behavioral risk and my room was packed to capacity. I was happy to have such a large, attentive audience but not surprised. Workplace risks due to human behavior lurk in all corners of the workplace. Managers/HR professionals have their hands full trying to come up with strategies to prevent liability or do damage control. Why is bad behavior so prevalent? I know many will try to blame it on the stress brought on by the current state of the economy but I don’t buy that. In my many years of consulting on workplace relationships and risky behavior, not much has changed except the laws enacted to prevent it. People still don’t bring their best behavior to work! Many of us have been there. We loved our work, loved our clients, but suffered at the hands of a manager whose style wreaked havoc in our workplace. Maybe this person lashed out at us, was threatened by our talent, undermined our goals, pitted us against co-workers, or just loved drama. Didn’t matter. At the end of the day, we were left feeling confused, victimized and ready to quit. As the saying goes, ‘people don’t leave bad jobs….they leave bad managers’. I coached an HR executive emotionally devastated by a bullying partner in a major law firm. Her frustration was compounded by the fact that she was so entangled in her own despair that she couldn’t help other employees caught in his destructive web. As a top money-maker, the Firm wasn’t willing to rein him in, either. As scary as it is, we need to find a way to stand up to these people. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to take action. It’s not effective to yell and bully back but we need to get out of victim mode. Start with a brief conversation about your concerns. Give specific examples about situations that troubled you and move in a positive, problem-solving approach. If you’re quickly dismissed, go to human resources or a trusted manager and get some guidance. You may also want to hire an external coach. While bullying behavior is never acceptable, sometimes we need to evaluate our behavior/style to see how we may be contributing to the situation. I once had an aggressive boss who thought I talked too much when I came to his office with a question. I spent a lot of time feeling wounded but knew I needed to come up with a different strategy. The next time I went into his office, I shared my thoughts in succinct bullet points. He was so surprised by it that he asked me to sit down and chat with him. It set us both in a better direction. Check out www.PCTV76.org to view my talk show, Taming the Cubicle Jungle. I did a series of shows on workplace risk.
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