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INSIGHT

Good managers watch for bad behavior

By Steve M. Cohen  bio

I know that many office managers sometimes feel like a kindergarten teacher.

Even with the best team, there’s always one or two who rub each other the wrong way or seem to have more than their share of complaints, either complaints about what they do or say, or what others do or say to them.

Ultimately, no one can promise you much more than temporary relief. Human nature being what it is, you’re likely to face a long parade of personnel friction issues throughout your career.

There are behaviors you simply cannot tolerate, however. Bullying, harassment, discrimination, and other forms of aggressive or hostile conduct cannot be tolerated at work. Not only are they wrong, they are illegal. Lawsuits, fines, and other penalties await an organization that doesn’t take a firm stand against bullying and its kin. That’s a reality in today’s climate.

What makes this tricky is that a very broad range of behaviors can be defined as bullying or harassment. Harsh criticism, gossip or appearing to treat someone differently than others can all be construed as bullying. Even NOT talking to someone—appearing to dismiss or not acknowledge them—can be bullying in certain circumstances.

I’m aware that some of this may start to sound like the proverbial office complainer, someone who feels like they are picked on by fellow workers. While that does happen, and it’s part of the mix you have to navigate; remember that a recent study found one in four workers felt they had suffered from bullying at work. That many people are probably not exaggerating.

Whether you call it harassment, bullying or something else, negative workplace behavior can be expensive for any business. Government regulation and the courts increasingly take a hard line against businesses that allow, or are portrayed as allowing, such behavior.

Equally confusing, bullies can be anyone. Overbearing employers and managers are so well defined it’s become a virtual stereotype. A newer twist involves other employees.

Although pushy coworkers have been around forever, what’s changing is that businesses that allow them to “push” too long can be found to have contributed to a hostile work environment. Organizations found to do that may face some heft fines.

Sometimes working through the truths and claims can be very difficult. Like any accusation, reports of bullying must be investigated, and investigated quickly. Depending on the allegation, you may legally have only days to move. You’ll need to talk with everyone involved, including witnesses, and attempt to determine who is bullying whom.  If the allegations are found to be true, then penalties can include written warnings and even termination. Otherwise, the risk to the office is too serious.

Long before that happens, I stress that a firm anti-bullying policy must be in place and regularly discussed. It’s not enough to just put a poster up or hold a meeting. Reminders and mandatory training, for both current and future employees, should be part of the office environment.

Ultimately, the issue is more than even reducing lawsuits and fines. Your staff needs to see that the office has a no-bullying policy and that the organization is willing to back up that policy. For office morale and performance, it’s important that everyone knows that staff members are to be treated with dignity, courtesy, and respect.


Steve M. Cohen, Ed.D., CMC is President/Partner of Labor Management Advisory Group, Inc. and HR Solutions: On-Call, both based in Kansas City, MO. For more information, visit www.laborgroup.com or call (913) 927-0229.


The above information is shared by a guest contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Medical Office Manager.


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