It’s not me, it’s you….
Four years ago, I was asked to coach Tracy. Tracy was by definition morbidly obese. She was experiencing extreme distress and anxiety because her colleagues – grown adults – teased and taunted her about her weight.
When the culprits were questioned, each acknowledged the behavior occurred within the department, but they said, “It wasn’t that bad,” and “They [not we] were only joking,” and even, “We just did it once.”
Interesting! We might think bullying is an issue that goes away once we are out of elementary school. But my years as a workplace consultant tell me that this is definitely not the case. In some workplaces, it is overlooked when inappropriate jokes are told, when comments are made, and when whispering occurs.
Researchers have found that when employees are asked, “Does bullying exist in your workplace?” they answer “Yes.” But, when the same researchers ask “Do you ever bully?” the answer is “No.”
Who do you suppose is doing the bullying?
I asked Tracy’s colleagues, “What do you do to stop the bullying?” They responded that it wasn’t their job to stop it.
Not only do I disagree with their attitude, so does the law: If people are being bullied based on their gender, gender preference, ethnicity, religion, age, or as in this example weight/physique, the workplace is liable.
But not only that: The behavior isn’t nice, and it leads to a toxic work environment.
So, what do you do if you see this behavior happening?
Change the subject
Talk to the perpetrators privately:”I’m really uncomfortable when you do that. This is how your behavior affects me.”
Express your expectations: “It’s really important to me that we treat one another with repect and that we only talk about people’s ideas as they relate to work.”
If these strategies don’t work, you must, by law, report the behavior to your manager and to human resources. If your concerns are not taken seriously, you need to contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (https://www.eeoc.gov/
) and ask them to research the situation.
Are you a manager who is struggling to create a positive work environment? The law – and human decency – dictate that everyone has the right to an emotionally, as well as physically, safe workplace.
We can help you create one.