Tag Archives: management

Taming Disruptive Behavior

By Dr. Marty MartinMarty Martin

John, a seasoned manager, is growing weary of receiving 2-3 daily email complaints from his employees, the employees of another manager, and occasionally a customer. They are not ordinary complaints. John is not a customer service manager and does not interact with customers. Frustrated and battle-weary, John has to deal with an employee who meets the expectations of the job but is described as “bullying,” “intimidating,” “inappropriate,” and even “terrorizing.”

The harsh reality is that workplace bullying is more common than many think. This should not be too surprising; remember when you were in elementary, middle or high school and the bullies terrified students and even teachers? If you were not a target, you knew somebody that was. Bullying does not disappear with age. People don’t grow out of bullying. Bullies, in fact, can be very intelligent, get good grades, and then get hired by companies based upon their knowledge and skills. They are often quite skilled in hiding any signs of bullying during the interview process and for as long as three months when they pass probation and then become a permanent member of the workplace. This is often the time in which the bully comes out of the closet seeking a victim, or pairs up with another bully at work and they both team up to seek victims.

Some facts about workplace bullying are as follows:

  • According to a 2010 Workplace Bullying Institute Survey, slightly more than one out of three (35%) of U.S. workers have been bullied at work.

  • Victims of workplace bullying suffer from psychological and physical symptoms resulting from bullying such as sleep disturbances and stress.

  • Victims of workplace bullying are more likely to skip work, decrease their performance and seek employment at a psychologically and physically safer place.

  • Victims of workplace bullying will file lawsuits against their employers and managers for discrimination under Title VII and violations of the Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA).

Can you afford, as a manager, to expose yourself or your company to increases in health care utilization at a time with double-digit health care premium increases? Can you fully achieve the strategies and goals of your company knowing that your employees are not fully focusing on their jobs but bullying? Can you allow your company to be exposed to preventable lawsuits and other legal actions? Can you permit, condone, allow, ignore, or minimize behavior that is harmful and hurtful toward any employee under your management and leadership? Clearly, the answer is no.

Thus, as a manager and steward of organizational assets, including your employees, you must do something. But what? As a manager, there are five concrete actions that you must take to prevent workplace bullying when it occurs.

1) Adopt a workplace bullying policy: The purpose of a workplace bullying policy is to formally establish the “rules of the road” regarding inappropriate, and in some cases, appropriate behavior at work. Other HR policies such as harassment and safety policies do not usually address workplace bullying. As such, the contents of a workplace bullying policy should spell out which behaviors will not be tolerated (e.g. physical abuse, verbal abuse, email stalking, etc.) and then identify how incidents are to be reported and how they will be handled by the organization. It is critical that the workplace bullying policy align with existing policies so that workers are not confused or do not play one policy against the other. An attorney must review the policy before it is finalized to be sure that it comports with federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Do not minimize the unnecessary legal, regulatory, and public relations risk of failing to attend to workplace bullying in a serious fashion.

2) Communicate and educate the workforce about the policy: It is crucial that the policy is effectively communicated. Once the workplace bullying policy is approved a communication plan must be developed, focusing upon the key messages, different audiences, and communication channels used to disseminate the policy; simply slapping the policy on an intranet site or website is not sufficient in terms of communicating the policy. Policies of this type should be presented in person with senior leaders, direct supervisors, and HR so that a discussion can be facilitated about the policy and to signal its importance. Beyond making people aware of the policy which is the aim of communication, the policy should be incorporated into all orientation sessions. Classes on “Preventing and Addressing Workplace Bullying” should be designed with the policy as the centerpiece to the training. Nothing beats face-to-face interactions, even in the age of the Internet. Effectiveness and efficiency are not the same.

3) Set expectations that the policy will be followed without exception: A policy without consequences, whether positive or negative, is like a dog without teeth. You are familiar with the saying, “All bark and no bite.” Be sure to put “teeth” into the policy to create and sustain a bully-free workplace. Examples of such include aligning the bullying policy with the organizations’ progressive discipline policy and even having awards for the organization or certain departments if there are zero occurrences of workplace bullying in a specified time period – similar to safety awards for having no injuries or accidents.

4) Establish an anonymous hotline and investigation process to field complaints: Do not make targets of workplace bullying a victim twice, first for being a victim of such behavior and second for reporting such behavior. It is important that employees are able to report incidents of workplace bullying to a neutral third party outside their chain of command to minimize retaliation and discomfort. Many organizations have a hotline or have a position such as an ombudsperson. Whatever mechanism you use for reporting, it must meet these three criteria:

  • Accessible 24/7 particularly if you are a 24-hour operation

  • Confidential

  • Trusted by both the individual making the claim and by those who are part of the claim

5. Record the results of the policy to keep it up-to-date: Report on an annual basis the effectiveness of the policy, the enforcement of the policy, as well as the resolution of workplace bullying complaints. Do not disclose individual information but focus on organization-wide results.

These five concrete actions to prevent workplace bullying make good business sense. In this era of fiscal austerity, lean processes, and quests for higher productivity, there is no place at any organization to waste time, talent and resources by having to spend precious organizational and managerial resources on anything unrelated to achieving the mission and strategies of the organization. These steps also represent ways to make your workplace psychologically and physically safer for all employees. Beyond workplace safety, a work environment free of harassment, intimidation, threats, and harm is a workplace that allows workers to focus on work, rather than worrying about distractors.

Dr. Marty Martin, known for his state-of-the art content presented in an engaging, dynamic fashion, has been speaking and training nationally and internationally for many years. His book, Taming Disruptive Behavior, will be published by The American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) in 2013. Dr. Martin is the Director of the Health Sector Management MBA Concentration and Associate Professor in the College of Commerce at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. For more information, please visit his website: www.drmartymartin.com.

Keeping an Intergenerational Office Copacetic

By Esther Francis JosephEsther Francis Joseph

Today’s complicated office structure is made up of several different generations of employees, yet there are two that can be radically different: Baby Boomers (approaching retirement; born between 1946 and 1964) and Millennials (entering the workforce; between the ages of 18 to 30). Each age group is distinct in its own way. When the groups are balanced they bring value, but when at odds, they can make the workplace an unpleasant environment for all. The workplace is destined to remain this way for some time since today’s economy has dictated that more people continue to work instead of retiring. What that means is the workplace is staffed by intergenerational employees and the office space confronted with problems caused by the age differences between those groups.

Some of the common intergenerational workplace problems include the following:

Problem 1: Older workers treat Millenials like children. Millennials who want to come to work in casual clothes are sometimes the subject of discussion and disrespect amongst Baby Boomers in the office. Older supervisors frequently micro-manage Millennials, especially their computer use. Baby Boomers believe that Millennials waste company resources by socializing, and spending too much time on social networking sites and emails and keep a tight rein on how Millennials use their work time. Millennials feel like they are treated more like the Baby Boomers’ grand-children rather than their coworkers.

Younger staff members need to understand that Baby Boomers are often heavily invested in their work. They are efficient, and focus on quality rather than quantity, and plan for their retirement. Their preferred form of communicating is via telephone or in person. They often consider reliance on technology and social media the juvenile behavior of children.

Baby Boomers are rule followers; they step into their role at work and adapt to it.  Millennials feel that their job should be flexible and mesh with the other aspects of their lives. This creates a disparity in the way these two age groups regard their duties at the same workplace. By understanding and respecting each other’s point of view, coworkers can make necessary compromises in attitudes and behavior to make their office fitting for all age groups. Millennials would be well advised to follow guidelines considered “hard and fast” by their more seasoned counterpart. At the same time, Baby Boomers and Generation X employees would do well to allow Millennials some leeway in situations that do not affect work quality in order to keep the younger generation motivated.

Problem 2: Lack of workplace etiquette in younger employees. A common complaint from older employees is that the younger staff shows a lack of protocol in the workplace. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • No notice from younger employees who decide to change jobs
  • Unprofessional emails
  • Texting during meetings
  • Inappropriate dress

Baby Boomers must realize that these actions may not be an intentional lack of disrespect, but a hallmark of the generation. Millennials are a multi-tasking group that communicates primarily by social media, and their texting is sometimes work-related. Unlike their older counterpart, Millennials celebrate diversity, value friends the same as family, live for the moment and thrive on a flexible yet supportive structured work environment.

When younger people find themselves in intergenerational offices they should learn and respect the office policies of the company for which they work. This does not mean giving up individuality but rather a presentation of workplace courtesy. Giving adequate notice when leaving a job; being professional in all forms of communication; abiding by a company dress codes; and learning the guidelines for texting in the office are simply good manners.

Problem 3: Lack of respect for young management from older employees. When an older worker moves to a company with younger management, they can feel out of place.  When a younger coworker is promoted, older workers may find it difficult, and resist giving the proper level of respect to the newly promoted person. While management cannot make older workers feel comfortable working with younger coworker or force respect from older to younger employees, they have the duty to set the tone that they want their employees to follow

Often giving respect earns respect. It is one of the core values that motivates the Baby Boomer generation. Younger management should make an effort to communicate and improve the tone of the office, they will often find that respect will come with time and results. When Baby Boomers see that younger managers are effective, respect follows.

Problem 4: A work environment that suits one generation but not another. Many different work environments exist today. An established law firm with a strict dress code and rules could be a difficult fit for a Millennial, but without the expertise of a younger workforce, firms such as these would find it tough to compete in today’s market. Companies such as Facebook and Google who are managed by younger, creative managers could be a hard adjustment for older employees. However, without the experience and expertise of older staff members, companies could make costly mistakes.

Before accepting a job offer, Millennials need to know what the office rules are.  Older employees should seek out guidelines concerning expectations for the job in a younger office setting. Baby Boomers must let go of pre-conceived models of what is right and wrong and must adapt to the new workplace, while still holding on to their traditional work ethics. All the age groups should strive to fit in and be productive members of their work team, while staying true to who they are.

What Business Can Do: Businesses can facilitate the challenges of their intergenerational staff in a variety of ways, such as creating a forum in which employees can discuss challenges, instituting a mentoring program, and offering communication training. Strategic interpersonal communication methods can help ease the challenges different generations will face as they work together. The current job market and workplace demand that companies foster the positive characteristics of each age group if they are to prosper in these trying economic times.

Esther Francis Joseph is a personal coach and author of, “Memories of Hell, Visions of Heaven: A Story of Survival, Transformation, and Hope,” her personal story of survival and perseverance, despite a violent childhood. Growing up on the picturesque island of St. Lucia, Esther molded her literary talents with her childhood experiences as she continues down her path to leading a joyous and fulfilled adult life.