Sunday, February 22, 2009

Take the ball and go home

Bullies can't be bullies when they are alone.

If you work with a bully, this is all you need to know. They need you.
A bully is someone who uses physical or psychological force to demean and demoralize someone else. A bully isn't challenging your ideas, or working with you to find a better outcome. A bully is playing a game, one that he or she enjoys and needs. You're welcome to play this game if it makes you happy, but for most people, it will make you miserable. So don't.

The way to work with a bully is not to try to please her or to question the quality of your work or to appease her or to hide from her.

The way to work with a bully is to take the ball and go home. First time, every time.

When there's no ball, there's no game. Bullies hate that. So they'll either behave so they can play with you or they'll go bully someone else.

Call her on her behavior (not who she is, but what she does). "I'm sorry, but when you talk to me like that, I'm unable to do good work. I'll be in my office if you need me." Then walk out, not in a huff, but with a measure of respect for the person (not the behavior).

This is a shocking piece of advice. It might even get you fired. But it will probably save your job and your sanity. Most bullies are deeply unhappy and you might just save their skin. If you're good at what you do, you deserve better than a bully.

From: Seth Godin's blog

Friday, February 20, 2009

Resilience in the Face of Adversity

I just returned from a conference in Arizona where I presented a soon-to-be-published paper on workplace bullying. I presented this research with a panel of other researchers who also had written papers on bullying. Three of the panelists had been bullied at some in the past, and had written papers on their experiences.

While I listened, it really got me thinking about what the differences are between two victims of bullying - where one victim comes out of the situation more or less okay, while another comes out of the same situation with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There must be differences between victims that would cause them to experience the same situation so differently.

I also recently came across Kathyrn Britton's article on resilience. You can read the whole thing here.

According to Kathryn, resilience is the ability to deal with moments of panic, self-blame, anger, threats (or workplace bullies). It is adaptation to difficulties surrounding you.

The following three steps can help one get through a difficult moment:

1. Calm down. Take deep breaths.
2. Think of something that gives you a positive emotion.
3. Try to shift your thinking about the challenge that started the negative emotions in the first place.

Kathryn goes on to say that resilience isn't so much just the simple ability to deal with a difficult time, but it's also an accumulation of assets that include connections to prosocial organizations, close relationships with others, positive relationships with family, a positive view of the self, good problem solving skills and appealing personality.

Therefore, as you think about issues you face at work and the anger you feel towards the bully you must fight each day, try thinking about the resources and competencies you have accumulated thus far in life. Here are some questions to help you tally some of them:

  • Have you shown self-regulation in the past (e.g., with money, your temper, etc)?
  • Do you have a community of friends who can support you?
  • Have you helped others?
  • Have you dealt with serious adversity in the past? How did you deal with it? What were the skills you gained?
  • Are you a positive or a negative thinker? If you are a negative thinker, what is your plan to start thinking more positively?

Remember that ultimately your experience with the bully will only build your skills and ability to deal with adversity. It's not so bad afterall - use the opportunity to build your ability to be resilient.

This article was adapted from Kathryn Britton's article posted on Postive Psychology News Daily, and the article can be read in full here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Workplace bullying can be difficult to distinguish

One of the emerging issues in employment law today is workplace bullying.
Laws have been proposed in at least a dozen states that would address abusive behavior in the workplace, but so far none has become law. The difficulty seems to be in distinguishing bullying from relatively common (albeit obnoxious) management techniques.

In California, the Legislature considered a bill several years ago that would have banned malicious behavior by an employer or manager "that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests." It died in committee, partly because it was feared that the broad definition would lead to a flood of lawsuits.

Nearly every week I get a call from an employee who complains about a hostile environment at work. When I ask more questions, I often find there is no legal recourse because the boss treats everyone the same way. He or she is an equal opportunity jerk, and the laws that protect employees from discrimination and harassment are of little use in this situation.

But are the courts the best place to address this problem? Can a judge or jury right all of the wrongs – large and small – that people experience on a daily basis? Shouldn’t we expect to take some things in stride and take some responsibility for the way we allow ourselves to be treated?

Discrimination on the basis of status is different. When being female, older or Latino is the cause of unfair treatment, it’s an institutional problem. But when one person feels intimidated by another, it’s often a function of their specific relationship, not the result of a widespread societal bias.

Of course, assault and battery is still illegal, as are threats of violence, even at work. That is not to say that bullying is OK. It’s not.

It’s very damaging to an organization to allow a manager to rule by intimidation. It has been estimated that a single abusive manager can waste $180,000 in a single year.

Even if that manager produces profits in the short run, he or she is killing the goose to get those golden eggs. There is no excuse for genuine abuse in the workplace, but a legal definition needs to be narrower than simply "hostile" or "offensive," or we truly risk having courts second guessing every interaction between employer and employee.

HR Consultant Catherine Mattice has studied workplace bullying extensively. She recommends beefing up the employer’s communication practices to avoid the potential losses and liabilities that a generally hostile workplace – even a legal one – can entail.

On her Web site,, she points out ways to recognize bullies in your workplace and steps you can take to reduce dissatisfaction and boost morale. In these times, that’s not a bad goal for any employer.

By Lou Storrow, Chairman of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Feb 01, 2009

Monday, February 2, 2009

Announcing Workplace Bully Workshop

The Center for Innovation’s
Professional Development Academy of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District

A Complimentary Workshop by Catherine Mattice

What: This free workshop will help you put a stop to bullying, whether you are a manager or a target. Catherine Mattice will cover how and why bullies thrive in an organization and the damage they are causing. She will explore why some people may be targeted over others, how to facilitate adjustments in organizational culture, and how to cultivate assertive communication skills.

Who: The Center of Innovation of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District presents Catherine Mattice, communication consultant and workplace bullying subject matter expert.
When: Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Where: Cuyamaca College
Room F-613
900 Rancho San Diego Parkway
El Cajon, CA 92019

RSVP: Pre-registration is required. Registration is FREE. Please RSVP to Katie O’Leary at 619-660-4323 or