03 Nov

Bullying or wearing blinkers?

If you were in New Zealand in the 80s then you may recall the “unfortunate experiment” which cast a very dark shadow over the National Women’s Hospital at that time. Last week I attended an incredibly inspirational talk by Dr Ron Jones, author of Doctors in Denial: The forgotten women of the unfortunate experiment, which spoke about the doctors and women involved. It is a painful reminder of what happens when people in power allow their egos to get in the way of sound judgement and good decision making. This “experiment” caused thousands of women to lose their lives from cancer that could have been cured. Dr Jones was one of the very few whistle blowers in this story and it is his mission in life, aside from a tribute to the women who passed away in this experiment, to educate New Zealanders about the truth of this outrageous and very preventable disaster.
Dr Jones’ story highlighted a number of characters who played significant roles in this experiment and at some point it sounded more like a horror fairytale than a true event. As Dr Jones spoke I realised that the characters he referred to in this story are also ones that we are all very familiar with and may engage with in our work and personal lives on an ongoing basis. Two main characters really stood out for me.
1) The “EGO character” – Dr Jones spoke of two main individuals in his story who were driving this experiment from the beginning. He called them bullies. Bullies with big egos are probably the most dangerous and destructive character trait I can think of. It doesn’t matter how wrong these people are, they will always dig their heels in and never admit failure. For these people self-preservation will always trump the will to be honest and prevent others from suffering.
2) The “BLINKERS character” – The blinker wearers in Dr Jones’ story, were highly qualified, world renowned and respected individuals at the peak of their careers. They did absolutely nothing, except turn a blind eye to what was going on. By not getting involved they allowed the bullies to take over.
So what can we learn from this horrific story? What can we do to prevent this type of behaviour from sneaking into our lives?
One thing that I have learned over the years, is that it is not about trying to control other people’s behaviours. It’s all about being aware of our own behaviours and controlling how we portray ourselves in the world. Learning from these stereotypical character traits will not just help us become better human beings, but by having a strong self-awareness it will positively influence our immediate environment and the people around us. Lead by example and keep the following in mind.
1) No one is perfect, we all make mistakes. Learn to be humble.
2) Never let your ego get in the way and cause you to develop tunnel vision.
3) It’s okay to be wrong and to admit your failure.
4) Use your voice and stand up against bullies when others cannot.
5) Leaders are responsible and accountable for their teams.
To be safe, how can we double-check that we are not turning into bullies or blinkers? We can learn to develop “self-checking-in” systems. Just like jumping on a scale to check on our weight, we can jump on the self-awareness scale and actively check behaviours and habits by asking ourselves questions, or if need be, ask a trusted colleague or friend to provide some honest feedback.
1) Did I listen to the other party?
2) The decisions that I am making, do they align to my business values?
3) Am I respectful in my approach?
4) Do I display ethical behaviour?
5) Will the decision that I am making benefit my business or just my personal needs and desires?
 These lessons are not new and we hear these statements all the time, but how often do you really apply these lessons? Perhaps today is a good time to start.
22 Sep

Is there a bully in your business?

If you think back to your school days, was there a class bully who ganged up against the little guy and stole his lunch money? Or can you think of a bullying incident that took place in your office? Most of us have been bullied at some point, or know of someone who has been bullied. Bullying is rife in our communities and its not just something that goes on in school playgrounds, it takes place in our working environments on a daily basis. According to the latest survey completed by Statistics New Zealand for Survey of Working life, 10 percent of employees have experienced discrimination, harassment, or bullying at work in the previous 12 months.
The difference or the problem between the school yard bullies and the office bullies is that the school bully uses more physical intimidation tactics to get his way. Whereas the office bully uses a more subtle approach. They use their position, their influence and their power to intimidate their peers, colleagues and subordinates. According to Work Safe New Zealand, bullying behaviour in the workplace can range from direct bullying such as belittling remarks, ignoring co-workers, physical attacks and then the more underhanded indirect bullying, which is setting unrealistic goals, lack of credit and constant criticism.
What I find scary is that this type of bullying behaviour, is so often passed off as the person being “strong-willed” or that they “just have” an autocratic leadership or management style, and everyone else is expected to work around it or accept it. This might be possible, but they might also just be a big bully.
What is of particular concern though, is that many bullies don’t even realise that they are behaving in this unacceptable manner. To them, it is how it has always been and sadly, in many cases they were managed in this style by a previous manager, so they picked up on the behaviour and naturally repeat it.
As a business owner or manager you are probably thinking about your own office environment at the moment. Running through your team members and thinking about their behaviour styles. If you aren’t doing that then I suggest you do.
While you are re-evaluating their management styles ask yourself the following:
1) If I had to run a peer or staff evaluation survey within the office, what would the result show about the individual team members?
2) What are the employee turnover figures for the business? Is the business losing too many staff members?
3) Why are employees leaving the business, what do the exit interviews say and in some cases not saying?
4) As a business owner or manager, how often do I observe how the team members engage with each other?
5) What is the corporate culture like within the business?
Be curious.
Work Safe have compiled an excellent set of best practise guidelines, which can be utilised in the workplace to assist with combating bullying. Together with coaching and a strong drive to eradicate this behaviour, these guidelines could make a huge difference in your business.
Need some assistance? Contact me nicole@tikumu.co.nz for professional business coaching.