3 Tips to Address Toxic Behavior with Leaders

by Sep 30, 2020

You tell your CEO that there is bullying, it causes harm, and we should fix it. Yet, as leaders, we occasionally find ourselves faced with a challenging dilemma: how do we address toxic behavior when it rears its ugly head within our teams or organizations?

Seems obvious this needs to be addressed.

Alas, many HR professionals are met with push back: “People are just sensitive.” “She’s our top performer so hopefully people can figure out how to deal with it.” “Let’s get everyone some training on bullying at work and maybe that person will change.” (That’s my personal favorite because it’s so ridiculous.)

If you’re getting pushback, here are three tips for countering it.

Calculate the Costs

Leadership needs data. Help them see the actual costs of bullying and you might pique their interest.  

Create an excel sheet laying out all of the actual costs of bullying, including hours spent dealing with it, turnover, training new hires, absenteeism, and everything else but the kitchen sink.

Even more cool, if costs of bullying are clearly laid out you can also discuss the ROI of addressing it.

Turn Anecdotes into Clearer Data

Anecdotes are data, but they’re also made up of perceptions. Leaders hear the stories and respond with, “Why can’t they just act like adults.”

I hate to say it, but anecdotes also create the opportunity for HR to be seen as melodramatic, too sympathetic to the employees’ plight and not enough to the business’, and lacking business acumen. 

That’s why we’re introducing our abrasive leader diagnostic. It turns those anecdotes into clear and undeniable data. 

You’ll be asked to put a checkmark next to all of the bullying behaviors you’re aware of (e.g., aggressive body language, yelling, sabotage) and all of the outcomes of that behavior (e.g., turnover, complaints, requests for transfers). 

You receive a report that summarizes your anecdotes in a calm and composed way… in a way leadership can understand. 

Discuss Risk

In addition to laying out costs in your excel sheet, and the list of behaviors and outcomes in your diagnostic report, you’ll want to discuss risk. 

Harassment and bullying behaviors are the same – the only difference is whom they’re aimed at. All it takes is one employee to recognize they may have a hostile work environment complaint, and the organization is doomed for at least a costly investigation. 

Of course, an investigator’s fee won’t crush the business. It’s all the other stuff that makes investigations costly – time wasted participating, time wasted gossiping about participation, loyalty to the organization lost, and so forth. 

Implement these three tips, and you’ll convince your leadership that bullying is a problem that exists, is costly, and most be resolved. 

Sincerely,

Catherine Mattice Zundel

P.S. Don’t forget about our upcoming webinar on Oct 22, 2020. We’ll be discussing politics at work and how to create an environment that can tolerate the emotions and outrage that’s sure to come with election night. We are offering up 1 SHRM PDC for those that attend this webinar!

It’s from 10:30-11:45 am Pacific. 

Claim your spot!

Incivility, bullying, and harassment occur because the culture allows them to. Before starting inclusivity initiatives, you’ve got to stop bad behavior. Take this assessment to determine if your workplace fosters a positive culture.

 

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

Microaggressions Can Become Part of an Organization’s Culture. Here’s Why

We're talking a lot about making sure everyone feels included and respected in the workplace. But sometimes, it's not the big, obvious stuff that makes people feel excluded and disrespected - it's the little things. We have likely all experienced situations where...

5 Unfair and Discriminatory Hiring Practices That Go Unnoticed

Businesses that prioritize diversity in their workforce significantly increase the likelihood of fostering creative and innovative thinking among their employees by 150%. Also, companies with a lot of different ethnicities and races in their management team are 35%...

How the Lack of Training Affects your Organization

The workforce is the heart of any thriving company. However, without proper training, employees may find themselves ill-equipped to meet the demands of their roles effectively.  Millennials think learning and growing are important reasons for joining a new company....

Why it’s Getting Harder for Some Women to Report Harassment

The United Nations Women found that about 1 in every 3 women has been sexually harassed at work. 3 out of 4 of them never report it to a manager, HR or anyone else. Imagine a world where every woman is treated with the respect and dignity she deserves. Unfortunately,...

How Companies Can Support Single Parents

Single parents face increased pressure as they balance full-time employment with the responsibility of caring for their children. This heightened pressure comes from various factors, such as economic challenges, limited support systems, and the need to provide for...

Why Your Reward System For Employees Can Fail Badly

Last week marked the celebration of Employee Appreciation Day! During this special time, many companies express their gratitude to their workforce, and one common way they do it is by giving out rewards.  Reward systems are a crucial aspect of employee motivation and...

Can a Wage Increase Make Employees More Productive?

In California, the upcoming minimum wage boost for fast food workers to $20 starting April 1st has ignited discussions about its potential influence on worker productivity.  Currently, the median hourly wage for fast-food workers in the U.S. is $13.43, while in...

Why Every Leader Needs to Worry About Toxic Work Culture

Employees quit their jobs for different reasons, and a major one is because of a toxic workplace environment. In fact, researchers discovered that between April and September 2021, toxic culture was the main reason why employees decided to leave their jobs. A toxic...

Civility Partners at 15 Years!

2024 marks an incredible milestone for us—our 15th-anniversary celebration! Yes, you read that right—15 years of making a positive impact on over 270 organizations served, thousands of employees, and millions of people worldwide! Thanks to the vision of our founder...

Driving Organizational Success Through Behavior Change

How can you make your workplace more exciting and successful?  Organizational success is not solely dependent on strategies or cutting-edge technologies. Instead, the key driver of success lies within the organization itself—specifically, within the collective...