I am learning the b-word is no longer a euphemism generally used to replace profanity.  It now refers to the word we are rarely allowed to say or use.. bullying.

I have recently worked through some unsavory incidents with my kids at school that are text book definition of bullying.  But that was a word we weren’t allowed to use. Or even say. There’s another word that comes to mind that starts with b…

Almost every parent I speak to now-a-days has a war story they want to share.  

Common thread amongst all is how frustrated they are and then question how we got here.  After hearing my kids’ experience, a mediation and conflict resolution specialist reached out to me.  She said she too had experienced bullying with her kids. What was more surprising, she continued, was learning about the extent of workplace bullying that is currently taking place.  Sick leave, mental stress, loss of confidence, anxiety are plaguing workplaces as a result.

A study shows that 75% of workers are affected by bullying

That’s huge.

One of the biggest things I learned during my kids experience is that the offenders didn’t even realize what they were doing. It was just “who they were”.  I see this with leaders as well. One of the more subtle examples is with leaders who take pride in their directive leadership style. Their cut to the chase communication tactics or ‘tell it how I see it’ approach is used without ever considering the repercussions they may have on others.  From their perspective they are focused on getting things done. Colleagues, team members and senior leaders can perpetuate the behavior with statements like “that’s just who they are” without ever considering the impact it may be having on others. Just because said behavior isn’t affecting you, doesn’t mean it isn’t affecting others.  While the intentions might be good – wanting to get stuff done – the impact can be very bad: how they treat, talk to or make others feel along the way.

Based on our experience, leaders don’t want to hear they are wrong or that their “get sh*t done” mantra isn’t engaging.  Rather they deflect and point the finger at others creating a culture of fear and scarcity.

Here is the thing – engaging, successful, collaborative workplaces don’t operate from a place of fear or scarcity.  

In order for people to want to be engaged and perform there must be respect, trust and safety. When I say safety I don’t just mean physical safety, I also mean where people feel safe and supported to share new thoughts, ideas, perspectives, take risks and fail without being judged, criticized, ridiculed or feel they aren’t good enough.  Getting things done is most effective when people are respected, inclusive and motivated based on value rather than fear.

We all have a role that is played in every interaction.  If you are going to thrive at work then it is essential that you have healthy and strong relationships. Unfortunately, so many of us are blind to how we build them.

I am not an expert when it comes to workplace bullying.  However, what I have learned is that until we each have a better understanding of how we show up – individually and collectively – we will always play a part.  Bullying may not be happening to us individually, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening to someone else in our workplace. Leading is about learning, emulating the actions and attitude they are asking of others.  To be open to learning and understanding our attitude and actions, we must first remove our blinders to take an honest look at ourselves – how we contribute. This is the first step towards a healthier and more engaged workplace.

Take action and reflect.  What’s Your Impact?

Having awareness around how you show up in your conversations, meetings and relationships will help you have a better understanding of the impact you have as a leader and the wake you are leaving for others.

  • How present are you with others, aware of what you are saying and how you are saying it?
  • How are you modeling the behavior you are asking of your team?
  • How often are you fixing and solving, telling others what to do vs asking questions to learn and understand how others want to do it?  
  • How often are you feeling angry, frustrated, judging and blaming others for doing it “wrong” or never getting it “right”?

We are all shaped by our early relationships.  

We only know what we have experienced or what has been modeled to us. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that it is effective. Until we are able to have a deeper understanding of how these experiences have influenced us and shaped how we show up for others, it is impossible for us to change.  One of the wonderful things about being human is that every day we have a fresh opportunity to do it differently to get new and different results. Providing we are willing to be curious to understand who we are, what we want and the wake we are leaving for others.

For a workplace to thrive, each individual must have understanding and take responsibility for their intentions and impact.  How clear are you on yours?

I want to help you get communication clarity. Be a stronger leader, start today.

Kirsten Siggins

Kirsten Siggins

Co-Founder of The Institute of Curiosity, Co-Author of The Power of Curiosity, Communication Ambassador for Wealthy Woman Warrior™

We specialize in high-quality conversations that build high-quality relationships. That means we help people STOP reacting (to people, emotions, events) and learn to start RESPONDING to engage and inspire others, especially in emotional or high stakes situations.


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