Blaming workplace bullying on the generational gap is a cop-out

by Feb 16, 2016

A question I get asked a lot is: What happens when the older workforce (who understands the value of hard work) holds the young people accountable to certain standards, and then those young people go crying that they are bullied?

The answer is:
Blaming the generational gap is a cop-out. But, this question highlights the importance of workplace culture.

Focus on building a certain kind of culture that celebrates a certain kind of performance, and then focus on hiring in people who already live that culture – no matter their age. Whether the culture is focused on work/life balance and having fun, or long hours and performance metrics, or something in between, there’s people of all ages at both ends of the spectrum who fit in.

The problem is that most of us aren’t even sure what our organization’s culture is, so how can we focus on hiring people who fit in?

How to do it:  
Think about how your organization is setting performance expectations. Are they clearly outlined somewhere? How does someone know if they aren’t measuring up before it’s too late? Are you positive all of your managers are great expectation-setters?

Once clear expectations are set, if an employee isn’t living up the manager should move into the role of performance coach. That means providing clear and concise information about what employees are doing well, what they should work on, what resources will be provided to help them, and when the improvements must be made.

This is coaching, not bullying.

And I promise, no one has ever said, “I felt bullied during our coaching sessions.” What they DO say is, “I was berated, told ‘I suck,’ and I watched her throw my work in the garbage can in front of my team.”

Bottom line:
If your organization has a solid performance management process in place, and if your managers know how to set clear expectations and coach their employees, no one will tie bullying to performance conversations… or generational gaps for that matter.

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.

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