Seven Tips to Address Adult Bullying
Bullying is on track to become a national epidemic. October is National Bullying Prevention Month. We have shared information on how to prevent, address, and help kids and youth who are experiencing being bullied by their peers, but what about adults in leadership roles, volunteering, or on staff? Do they ever experience bullying?
Unfortunately, yes. In fact, Per HRAcuity, 52% of employees have experienced or witnessed inappropriate, and unethical misconduct towards others, and according to Workplaces Respond, a national resource on workplace violence, 4 in 5 women deal with sexual harassment in the workplace. These stats indicate few people will go through a career or organizational support role without encountering a bully. Adults are more likely to experience verbal bullying rather than physical which is more common with kids and youth.
Bullying exists regardless of organization type, whether it be children’s ministry, kid’s club, an after-school program, or a camp. Bullying for adults is a leading factor in debilitating stress, anxiety, decreased performance, and overall poor physical health. So how do you deal with this insidious behavior and bully-proof your organization?
Here are seven tips to approach it head on.
- Lead by Example – You are a role model whose impact can influence others. Assess your behavior. Are you setting a positive example, communicating honestly, listening respectfully, and being open to what others have to say? Self-assessment is a good place to start.
- Openly Discuss Bullying – Communicate your organization’s commitment to a zero-tolerance policy for bullying. Address bullying behaviors and the consequences that come with mistreating others, no matter their role.
- Stand Up – If you are experiencing bullying or see it happening, advocate for yourself and others, call out the behavior, rebuke it, don’t be intimidated, and remain calm. Bullies count on people being silent and fearful. It emboldens them to continue and reinforces what they think they can get away with.
- Create A Speak-Up Culture – A “speak-up” culture is one that improves child protection and creates a safe and welcoming environment. A speak-up culture starts at the top and requires leadership commitment at the highest levels. The same principles that govern the culture for children can be used to encourage staff and volunteers to raise concerns about bullying and demonstrate a commitment to being proactive rather than defensive.
- Create a Reporting Process – Let others know the process for reporting an incident. Designate a point of contact for mistreatment. This reinforces the discussion about a zero-tolerance bullying policy. Look at what other organizations are doing and their best practices. Consider the fact that most adults won’t report an issue for fear of retaliation or lack of organizational trust.
- Prioritize Aftercare – If your organization has experienced bullying, a critical element in recovery is providing aftercare. For those affected, to get past the issue, they need to feel heard and know that the problem is being resolved and that they will not be retaliated against. Any ongoing negative attitudes will impact retention, morale, and productivity.
- Gather Feedback – In addition to your Annual Safety Survey, also consider a staff or volunteer survey that includes the topic of bullying. It’s important to offer people a way to give anonymous feedback if they are uncomfortable addressing the situation in person or under the current process.
Leaders By Design defines a bully-free workplace as one where all workers are fully engaged and committed to the organization’s mission while maintaining positive relations with all stakeholders. It’s a place where workers communicate honestly, and respectfully, where leaders listen, reciprocate relationships, and share responsibility. It’s a place where bullies know they can’t thrive, and their behavior is taken seriously and stopped.
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