Workplace Bullies: Three Tips

Employment Lawyers who defend employers will have files filled with cases where no unlawful discrimination or harassment occurred, but the problem involved a workplace bully or an employee with some social-skill deficits.  These cases are good for the employer’s lawyer, but probably not for anyone else’s finances.

A workplace investigative firm recently published an article on such bullies in the workplace.  So, what should employers do when they have an employee whose behavior is described as:  “well, that’s just him/her”? 

Tip One:  It is a performance problem.  Treat is as a performance problem.

Tip Two:  Don’t wait until the pot boils over to address the performance problem.  Evaluate the employee’s job description, workplace rules and policies, and common sense expectations.  What is the impact of the employee’s conduct:  high turnover?  disruption in the workplace? low morale?   decreased productivity because of tears?  If the impact of poor communication skills, interpersonal skills, etc. has negative effects, it is time to focus on the consequences with the employee and address, through a performance improvement plan or other means, what needs to change about his/her style.

Tip Three:  If performance doesn’t improve, solve the problem.   Whether termination, demotion, transfer, or other means – if the employee cannot or will not develop the skills necessary to perform the duties of the position, then replace him/her with someone who can.  When you do, you are promoting the business’s interests while also sending a message to your workforce that “how” a job is done matters, “how” they are treated matters, and that the employer (egads and gasps) cares about its employees.

When performance rather than personalities are valued, the rewards may be a significant reduction in liability risks in the “personnel” department.

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