Hit the bullies where it hurts

2008

So, the good people of South Wales really think that creating an academic center to study workplace bullying will really find a solution to this age-old problem? If that's what they think will be achieved, more power to them.

Seriously, folks, go a Google search every week on the workplace, and you'll find countless articles on bullying in the workplace and perceived solutions to the problem. Everyone is so certain that they've got the answer on how to eradicate this problem, yet it never seems to go away.

I don't have the solution, but I do have a low (very low) tolerance for putting up with such people in the workplace, much like I did as a child in dealing with bullies on the playground.

Back when I was eight, these kids would lose privileges of things they enjoy – such as recess, extracurricular activities, or field trips. Since such things are of little value to a 35-45 year old man, perhaps there are other methods of letting him know that such behavior is unacceptable in civilized society. Perhaps docking wages or a warning prior to termination of employment might be clear-cut messages of getting the message across.

No need to spend buckets of cash on studies and centers when you simply need to speak to bullies in a language that they understand - namely $, €, £, or ¥.

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As someone who was taunted, teased, tormented and tortured by a kindergarten 'teacher', often in front of children who I later was forced to sit alongside as I made my way from first grade through high school, I am convinced that people who bully others in the work place are those who were never penalized or suffered any consequences as a result of bullying others in childhood.

I agree that bullies in the workplace ought to be financially penalized, but to really impact such behavior and reverse it, or at least get the bully to treat others in a civil, business-like, professional manner at work, the bully's supervisor and the supervisor's supervisor, etc., ought to also be financially penalized. Whereas such behavior has likely been lifelong, those in the workplace able to previously edit their bullying tendencies are more likely to regress as a result of being bullied by higher ups. In addition, the bully and his/her supervisor, et al, should be required to regularly attend classes on appropriate workplace behavior as well as bullying. The bullying classes would focus on what bullying is, what it looks like, why it is wrong, how to prevent it, etc.

Those who have been bullied would be permitted, without fear of retribution or termination, to point out the bully's use of language or behavior associated with bullying. Role playing would help tremendously as the bully would find him/herself bullied for a period of five minutes, several hours, a day or even a week, whatever length of time necessary to stop the behavior.

Attending classes would lengthen the work day for the bully(ies), all of whom would have to relinquish control of every project and cease micro-managing the employees. Much of this work would be the responsibility of several employees, and those most often targeted by the bully would get first choice of projects to oversee. An account with the penalty funds would be disbursed among the employees who were bullied.

Workplace bullies unable to, within a period of one year, discontinue their bullying behavior would be forced onto short-term disability, during which time they would have to agree to in-depth counseling and treatment to eradicate their bullying behavior or be terminated. If, after six months to one year of in-depth counseling and treatment, the bullies were unable to treat others humanely, they would be able to apply for long term disability based on mental illness. Because by that time, it would be evident that the bully was, in reality, a sociopath.

Of course, for such programs to succeed, companies would have to make the more junior employees, a greater number of people, a higher priority than the managers and supervisors, those most likely to be workplace bullies. Most companies do the opposite, retaining a supervisor or manager who is highly paid and appears, on paper, to be successfully operating a specific department while blindly accepting the high employee turnover, due to resignation or transfer, in the department.

If companies actually took the time to sit down and do the math, they would find that, over time, more dollars are spent in total per employee per year (on pay, training, education, fund-matching, etc.) in departments headed by a workplace bully than the dollars spent on the bully's annual salary and perks.

Kat Arizona