Finding Civility in a Sea of Bullying

by Jan 10, 2017

At an organization whose mission was to help people with disabilities thrive in the community, the workplace bullying had become rampant. The former CEO had apparently been a real bully, and his leadership had dripped downward into the organization. Insidiously, a culture of bullying and negativity crept into every corner of the organization.

The bullying had gotten so bad that it affected the organization drastically. In fact, during an annual audit by the industry’s accrediting body, the negative culture came to light. Sadly, the organization failed the audit and was given two years to turn things around in a major way. If they didn’t their accreditation would be stripped. Staff, providers of services, and the families they served were devastated. Morale was low and union activity began to fester.

As a result, the board of directors asked the CEO to step down, and they replaced him with a new CEO. The new CEO’s mission was to ensure the follow-up audit would be passed, and that the organization would be restored to its original glory. Although new to the organization, this CEO wasn’t new to leading, and she quickly decided the organization needed a culture overhaul if she were going to succeed.

In partnership with Civility Partners, the CEO devised a five-step plan:
1. Train the leaders, managers, and supervisors in driving culture change
2. Create a culture committee made up of people from all levels of the organization
3. Create a social vision that would drive the new culture
4. Update the core values so that they resonated with the employees
5. Develop a strategic plan around the new values

As the plan took shape and began to move forward many were uneasy with the changes. Although they wanted a more positive workplace, change is scary for everyone. And when you’re a bully, positive change can be really scary because it means you’ll have to learn new ways of behaving.In the end, the organization passed their follow-up audit with flying colors, the union activity ceased, and this workplace became, once again, a positive place to be.

In the end, the organization passed their follow-up audit with flying colors, the union activity ceased, and this workplace became, once again, a positive place to be.

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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