Bullying Has No Place in a Healthy Workplace

You may have read that Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick announced his resignation recently. This followed months of chaos and revelations of a bullying and toxic corporate culture at Uber. Corporate culture can have a major effect on people so there is a real need for organisations and managers to focus on promoting two very important qualities – they are dignity and respect for everyone while at work.

It stands to reason that the health of any corporate culture can affect productivity. If the culture is toxic, it can be hugely detrimental to those caught up in it. When an organisation has robust procedures and zero tolerance policies against bullying in place, this will go a long way towards deterring bullies. When there are signs of stress levers such as intimidation and harassment at work, management should deal effectively with them. Having said that, it’s often difficult to identify the early signs and symptoms of bullying.

To understand this better, we need to ask ourselves –
• How does bullying behaviour manifest itself in the workplace?
• Why does one person regard a particular behaviour as bullying, while someone else sees it as tolerable, simply indicating a dominant attitude (even if such an attitude may be unwelcome)?


Bullying behaviour can be overt or covert

Bullying behaviour relies on a wide range of tactics – overt and covert. Disparaging remarks or criticism made by colleagues or managers can have harmful effects on an individual at the receiving end. This individual then feels their professional competence is being called into question – and it’s undermining their work.

Overt tactics can include public rebuke for alleged errors made by an individual in their work. Covert tactics can take the form of circulating rumours or gossip appearing to question an individual’s ability. These tactics can also be expressed as inaction.

For example, failing to acknowledge or approve work that’s been done well. Or omitting to ask for someone’s opinion, when that someone is clearly best qualified to comment.

You can recognise bullies, because typically they –
• Make unreasonable demands on their chosen target
• Shout at victims publicly, as a deliberate tactic to disempower them
• Give instructions which they then change for no apparent reason
• Allocate tasks which they know are beyond an individual’s ability
• Block promotion by refusing to give fair appraisals
• Fail to endorse pay increases or bonus awards, though fully earned
• Exclude an individual from discussions germane to their work responsibilities
You may well have observed some of these behaviours happening in work situations yourself – sadly, they’re not that uncommon.

How does bullying affect people?

People who are bullied at work often feel they’ve lost control, and they’re no longer able to carry out their duties efficiently. They try to regain the semblance of normality – but frequently this is unsuccessful. After a while, people who’ve been bullied may become tense, anxious, prone to emotional outbursts, and behave un-cooperatively. Worse still, the stress that bullying causes often leads to minor illnesses, such as headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and fatigue. When people experience stress over time, this can result in more serious health problems – for example, very unpleasant conditions such as ‘burnout’.

When they’re being subjected to bullying, people are often reluctant to discuss their experience for fear of reprisal or further intimidation. Talking about it may be seen as a ‘black mark’ against them that could damage their career progression. Most victims of bullying have two main aims – they want to keep their job and they want the situation to return to normal.

What actions can an organisation take to prevent bullying?

• Introduce policies to counteract bullying and harassment
• Train HR people to recognise the signs and symptoms of bullying
• Carry out stress and culture audits to identify ‘hot spots’
• Focus on developing soft skills
• Mediate between ‘victim’ and ‘perpetrator’
• Ask a question such as ‘Have you ever experienced bullying in this organisation?’ during exit interviews

What you should remember

• Bullying behaviour is always unacceptable
• Your people may need to be taught how to confront bullies
• Anti-bullying policies should complement your organisational culture

With over 25 years of providing training, mediation and consultancy in the field of workplace bullying, contact us if we can help in any way: info@carolespiersgroup.co.uk




The Importance of Treating People with Dignity and Respect

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The Essential Guide to Managing Stress

We are aware that all employees should be treated with dignity and respect and that bullying and harassment is detrimental to both morale and team dynamics and should never be tolerated.  However, if you are being bullied, it is not always easy to know what action to take.  All employers need to demonstrate a duty of care to everyone who works for them but, sadly, this is not always the case.

Being Bullied

Emilee is a 35 year old, London accountant who enjoys her work. She appears to be a self-confident, efficient and outgoing person who you would not think could be easily bullied.    However, the opposite is the case.  She told me that her boss, John, only speaks to her in order to criticize her work and, otherwise, completely ignores her from one day to the next.  Never is there any word about what she has actually achieved.  To date, she has done her best to ignore this attitude because good jobs such as hers are not easy to come by and she is committed to her work. However, a few weeks ago, Emilee could finally take no more intimidation and she arrived at my consultancy room, in tears. Continue reading


Be Stress Free and Experience the ‘Feel Good’ Factor

Here in the UK, we are on a ‘high’ after the successful London Olympic Games and with the Paralympics about to begin. The weather may not always be great but the country came together as one. We talked to each other on the streets, there was a buzz around the office and as the gold medals increased, everyone felt good.

But how long will that feeling last and wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could just bottle it, to be opened when the energy we have been feeling throughout the country will have gone?

So, how do you feel when you get up in the morning? Ready to bounce out of bed with your daily exercise regime or do you struggle to get yourself together and not want to look at yourself in the mirror until after your first cup of coffee?

And then you go into work, with a growl and grumpy face and maybe yell at the person who asks how you are? Sound familiar? Well, you are not alone.

If you are feeling miserable this may be accompanied by stress, anxiety, anger, irritability and low energy but in many ways, you are probably the last person to notice. Your colleague asks you what is wrong and you wish you could identify why you feel as you do but you don’t want to ‘open up’ at work for risk of being seen as weak and unable to cope. And so the vicious cycle goes on until maybe you get to the point where your sleepless nights and lack of concentration gets to you. And then you might finally think you should try and do something about it.

Hmm… you say to yourself. “Where did I put that bottle of ‘feel good factor’ – I am sure I have it around somewhere?”

Determining your mood

So what determines your mood – are they external or internal factors? Well, you may hear yourself saying, ‘It’s not fair that I did not get that job promotion or ‘It’s not fair that my wife doesn’t understand me’ and so it goes on. You spend your working day telling your colleagues that something or other is not fair and then you are surprised that your colleagues don’t wish to have lunch with you. And with all of that negativity, who can truthfully blame them? They will probably want to spend their free time with someone who has energy and a positive attitude. So if you can’t find your bottle of ‘feel good factor’, I suggest you go for lunch by yourself! Continue reading


The Crying Games

The celebration of the London Olympic Games are now over.  The winners, some crying with tears of elation, will return home with their medals to enjoy their newly acquired national status.   They are the ones who will have worked tirelessly for many years to finally enjoy the results of their achievements. There were also, believe it or not, some tears from journalists, caught up in the emotion of the winners – and also the losers who just failed to make the grade who feel they have let down their country.

Although we are told that it is the competing that is the most important, and not necessarily the winning, we must not underestimate the impact that disappointment will have on each competitor.

Managing Disappointment

Of course, we know that everyone manages disappointment differently.   Some athletes
may feel that their failure to win a medal is to have absolutely failed their friends, family and trainers whilst for others it may merely increase their determination to do better next time.

Those who fail to win may feel angry and cross at their lack of concentration or physical ability to be the best, and while they congratulate the winners, they are secretly having to manage not only their pain but also their feelings of disappointment for themselves and for those that have supported them over so many months and years of training.

These are the people that I think of at this time.  Of course, for every winner there is a loser and we cannot all be champions: life is full of disappointments which we have
to manage whether we are Olympic competitors or corporate managers.  We all have dreams and aspirations not yet realised.  Illness, in ourselves or our family, may get
in the way of us achieving our full potential.  Hopes are often dashed and life, at times,
just seems so unfair.

Life is not a straight line – there will always be ups and downs along the way. We cannot always sail on the crest of a wave.  Situations do not always work out; our vision
does not always become a reality and too often, we don’t come home with the gold, or even the bronze!

We are not all Olympic competitors, but in one form or another, we will have had to manage disappointment and the powerful emotions that it releases.  It happens to all of
us, rich or poor, old or young, man or woman. It is a fact of life that will happen to you and although it cannot be avoided, how you deal with it  will  determine the effect it has on your life and the extent to which you can control that effect.  Disappointment is a combination of two things:  your expectations and perceptions of an event and its actual resolution.

Here are some ways to help you to move on:

  • Treat the event as a moment to consider what you can learn about yourself from the situation.  Reflect and take the learning
    out of the situation so that you can use it for another time.
  • Allow yourself space to grieve and sufficient time to manage the loss.  It is important to acknowledge that it did
    happen, to acknowledge the disappointment and to move on.
  • Take responsibility for your own actions and don’t blame others.  Whilst, other people or factors may have influenced how a particular situation unfolded, there
    will be ways in which you can modify those influences, next time.
  • Accept that change is an integral part of life, both in business and in the home.  Do your best to believe in the fact that how you manage change will determine the type of person that you are.

Even though you may have experienced disappointment, don’t forget to say ‘Thank you!’ to those who were there for you and supported you onyour journey. Be grateful for what you have and for those whom you have around you: your family, friends and colleagues.

Life is a journey for all of us.  Tears of joy and sometimes of disappointment will happen.  The sooner, you come to terms with the pain, the sooner you can move on. These disappointments will have been yesterday but today, and everyday, is a new beginning!

Key Points

  • Disappointments happen to all of us
  • Learn and profit from your mistakes
  • Life is about looking forwards not back

[Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News]

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Watch Carole live talking about her new book on Studio One, Dubai.





The New Olympic Champions

This year, 2012, Britain has the great privilege of being host nation to the international Summer Olympic Games, for the third time in its history – the previous
occasions being 1908 and 1948. London will be the only city ever to host three Olympiads! A new 200 acre “Olympic Park” has been built in Stratford,
East London, and many existing London facilities, such as the new Wembley Stadium, will also be used. And when the Games are finished, London will be left with the valuable legacy of a completely rejuvenated area, that was once derelict, and that will, in a few weeks time, provide homes for thousands of Londoners.

The Games began on Friday 27th July and will run through until 12 August, with 4,700
medals ready and waiting to be won!   The country is enjoying Olympic fever and the excitement is running at a high level throughout the capitol. Continue reading


How to Deal with Bullying in the Workplace and Cyber Bullying

Last week, I delivered a presentation on workplace bullying to a group of volunteers in a large retail company, in the UK.  This group have volunteered to provide a listening and sign posting service for anyone within their organisation who has been subject to workplace bullying, harassment or discrimination.  They have all been professionally trained to give guidance to any individual who feels they are at risk and their role is to
be proactive and to provide an informal route for an employee if they experience such a problem.

Bullying issues are, unfortunately, experienced around the world but not every organisation will make a commitment to provide this support to their staff and the commitment and motivation from this team is to be greatly admired.

Bullying in the Workplace

You may wonder why there is a need for such a team of people.  Well, with many managers under pressure to achieve targets and deadline, it is inevitable that the high levels of stress they have to endure is going to affect them.  Some managers under stress, may demonstrate bullying behaviour without being consciously aware of it, but that does not make it any less acceptable.

Bullying, of course, is perceived differently by everyone.  What is acceptable for one person is unacceptable to another.  What makes one person laugh, makes another
person cry.  That which may work in one culture, does not work in another.

There are many signs of bullying behaviour that are highly visible, for instance: the person who is publically humiliated by their manager or the individual who wrongly takes the credit for someone else’s work. However, there is another more insidious form of bullying behaviour that needs to be addressed: that credit for someone is so-called ‘cyber bullying’. Continue reading


Workplace Bullying – a conspiracy of silence?

I have been working in the stress management field for over 20 years and still it never ceases to amaze me that some of the issues I was dealing with then are still prevalent today.

In my role as an Expert Witness to the UK courts I am often required to give a professional opinion to the court as to whether an organisation had anti-bullying procedures in place, prior to an employee deciding to institute a compensation claim against them.  Too many times, employees would have made an official complaint to the HR department yet no action was ever taken.   Was it that HR were just uncaring and unsupportive?  Not necessarily so.  Too often it was because HR really didn’t really know what action to take. A lack of agreed policies and procedures left them uncertain whether they should support the employee’s claim about being bullied or just minimise the alleged behaviour by telling the complainant that there was little they could do. 

A recent survey

I read last week that the UK January Employment Index based on a survey of 2,600 people showed that 25% of the respondents have experienced workplace bullying with incidents ranging from colleagues taking credit for work that they didn’t do to public humiliation at the hands of a colleague, and it made me wonder what more could be done to tackle this conduct that is so often responsible for employees taking extended periods of sick leave and, often ultimately deciding to leave the company.

It is easy for anyone to identify the most obvious cases of intimidation, the times when you see a manager screaming at an employee or humiliating them in front of their team.  This is overt bullying behaviour but what about the bullying behaviour that goes on behind closed doors. The psychological bullying that can now take place on social networking sites is a more dangerous style of bullying as it is a much more difficult phenomenon to detect. Individuals can often be humiliated even by an anonymous posting on a website and social networking sites can facilitate remote intimidation that can cause serious psychological damage to the victim.

Counselling support

I have counselled many clients who would describe such intimidation as a ‘reign of terror’.  They became reluctant to go to work but had little option unless they decided to leave or report sick. In many cases, because of extreme stress, some eventually did leave the company which meant a serious financial loss both to them and to the organisation.

So what can an individual do?

First and foremost, they need to check if the organisation has a formal anti-bullying policy and procedure code and if it does then they should use the procedures laid down to make a complaint. Where procedures are not laid down then they need to speak to someone in authority in the company.  Raising the issue with HR is the recommended way forward.  However, as we saw above, the HR department may not always know what action to take.  But this is a risk that may have to be taken as there is strong evidence to show that bullying behaviour creates stress and ultimately health problems.  I have seen and dealt with many cases where individuals have experienced a nervous break-down as a direct result of workplace bullying.

What should the organisation do?

Make sure that your organisation has robust policies and procedures in place to combat workplace bullying and that your HR professionals and line managers are fully trained to recognise and deal effectively with such issues. An anti- bullying policy should state that the organisation will not tolerate unacceptable behaviour.

If people are in fear of going to work and watching the clock to get back to the safety of their home, then those people will be poor performers, poor sales people, poor producers and a bad advertisement for your firm. That competitive disadvantage will be reflected in your company’s image and your brand.

The learning is not to accept bullying behaviour in your department or workplace.

Key Learning Points

  1. Beware of bullying in the workplace and on social networks
  2. Intimidatory behaviour can cause psychological damage
  3. Unacceptable conduct results in competitive disadvantage

[Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News]

Book Keynote Motivational Speaker, Entrepreneur, BBC guest-broadcaster and best-selling Author, Carole Spiers in person for your next conference for charismatic, high-impact workplace stress management presentations and organisational change strategies.

See Carole live http://bit.ly/TUWbX  or check-out our latest ideas about workplace stress, stress management training, instant access to stress reduction products http://bit.ly/FjL5L  and stress management training aimed to reduce stress and delivered to blue-chip clients from IBM to Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company in UK, Dubai, UAE and worldwide at www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk


Is Your Office a Bully Free Zone or do you experience stress and anxiety?

According to the memoirs of former British prime minister, Tony Blair, ‘A Journey’, he writes that he felt bullied by his chancellor, Gordon Brown.

Being bullied tends not to be openly discussed in case this increases the risk of further ill-treatment, and because the victim often feels ashamed to discuss it with colleagues in case his/her professional credibility is called into question.

Even the mildest form of intimidation may be very disturbing, and, if prolonged, the effect on the victim can be severe. A bully will typically shout and verbally abuse victims publicly, in order to confirm his/her control and will often allocate tasks which they know the person is incapable of doing.

How can victimisation be avoided?

Individuals who are being bullied have a number of options including confronting the bully; contacting the HR department [if available] or complaining to the bully’s immediate superior.

In reality, however, the victim will often stay and keep silent or, alternatively, if they are so unhappy, they will end up leaving their job. If possible, talking to a colleague can help, but in the end it is up to the victim to take action. My advice would be to confront the bully immediately, and in a direct but quiet way that does not escalate the situation, i.e. so that the bully does not become further incensed to a point whereby he/she will want to exact revenge.

My clients often tell me that informal complaints are usually met with little or no response. While a complaint of bullying or intimidation is very often difficult for managers to resolve, an indication that the complaint is being taken seriously is welcomed by staff who have expressed concern over a bullying situation. As people are often reluctant to discuss being bullied, managers need to be sensitive to the telltale signs, and know how to act when they see them.

Undoubtedly the most effective intervention is the training of managers to help them ensure the quick resolution of such disputes between their staff. Quite often, managers do nothing simply because they do not know what to do. It is also clearly important that employers recognise the impact that bullying can have indirectly on the morale of the entire department concerned, as well as on the individual employee. In particular, a formal document detailing policy and procedures should be in place to deal with issues of workplace bullying and/or harassment – as this indicates unambiguously that the organisation takes the issue of intimidation seriously, and provide a mechanism for dealing with complaints, both informally and formally.

Bullying is unacceptable in the modern workplace and no responsible company or organisation should be seen as condoning it. The health of employees is important, and that includes both physical and mental wellbeing. Have you ever been bullied at work? Leave your comment in our column.

Key Points about Bully-Free Zone

· Bullying destroys staff morale

 · A demoralised workforce is less productive

 · Bullying and intimidation must be reported

[Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News]

Book Keynote Motivational Speaker, Entrepreneur, BBC guest-broadcaster and best-selling Author, Carole Spiers in person for your next conference for charismatic, high-impact workplace stress management presentations and organisational change strategies.

See Carole live http://bit.ly/TUWbX  Or check-out our latest ideas about stress help, instant acces to stress reduction products http://bit.ly/FjL5L  and stress management training aimed to reduce stress and delivered to blue-chip clients from IBM to Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company in UK, Dubai, UAE and worldwide at www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk


Motivational Speaker Carole Spiers says … The Outsider as Mediator

As well as credibility, trustworthiness and communication skills, a mediator must enjoy outsider status  –  the sheer fact of being a neutral observer brings a new dimension to workplace conflicts.

I once had to perform some shuttle-diplomacy in a big electronics factory, where there was a dreadful atmosphere that hit you the moment you walked in. All I had to do was repeat word-for-word the terms of one particular deal that had been rejected outright when spoken by the original negotiator.

When spoken by a total stranger  –  me  –  it was listened-to properly for the first time, and promptly accepted, subject to a tiny face-saving condition.

This reminds you of the irrational nature of workplace dialogue, and the value of mediation as a lubricant which can bring the perception of a grievance back into proportion.

You really do need the non-judgmental outsider who is not going to apportion blame and who will remain neurtal and objective.

Want to book Motivational Speaker Carole in person … ?

Phone: +44 (0) 20 8954 1593
or email info@carolespiersgroup.co.uk


Motivational Speaker Carole Spiers says … Bullying from below

Bullying is commonly identified with the abuse of physical or hierarchical power.

Yet there is also bullying from below, and its effects can be just as harmful. Subordinates often demonstrate just how easy it is to make a manager’s job impossible. 

A young warehouse supervisor once told me he’d been driven to despair by a couple of bullies-from-below who would perform each task only to the minimum standard required  –  which, of course, was within their legal rights. It took eight months before he was allowed to have one of them transferred to another department. The remaining one got bored with playing the game on his own, so the matter resolved itself.
I told him that a specialist bullying counsellor might have solved his problem a bit quicker than that. External support like this may be necessary at times, and it is not a sign of weakness to request it.

Want to book Motivational Speaker Carole in person..?
Phone +44 (0) 20 8954 1593 or email info@carolespiersgroup.co.uk

Visit our website: www.carolespiersgroup.co.uk