Adriana Sandrine Isaac-Rattan
The invisible tag “I am the Boss” seems strong in many workspaces—a message conveyed by some suffering from the “ah never thought” syndrome; they foolishly believe that a constant reminder must always be on the table. Such an attitude denotes weakness, insecurity, and false pride all of which have no place in effective leadership.
Fast forward in 2018 there are still bosses who operate based on the primitive philosophy that their employees are kids and the rule of “whatever I say goes” is applicable leaving their subjects voiceless. Lord have mercy, we are living in a very different era where 19th-century rules are out the window. I once managed a team of eight wonderful employees who always performed at their optimum both during my presence and absence, and that was only possible because of the confidence reposed in them, as well as an engaging style of leadership. I also took the time to study each one of my staff members and was able to cultivate an awesome blend of skill sets together with positive attributes.
Societies can never advance under leadership filled with insecurity and turbulence, as management has evolved through the use of more engaging and democratic strategies that allow the voices of employees to be heard. Imagine in this current dispensation bosses can still be heard telling employees “leave your personal problems by the roadside”—this is an extremely archaic approach as individuals are hired based on a successful interview at which they demonstrated their ability and competencies for a particular job, and if during their employ they encounter some personal challenges, then as a responsible manager you have a duty of care to ensure that the employee is supported and assisted. In fact, this rhetoric can be directed to some managers whose bullying tactics are sufficient to scare the minds out of their employees almost as if the employees committed an offence. According to UK-based physician and career counsellor Dr Anita Houghton "bullying thrives in situations where the perpetrators are both powerful and frightened and those around them too scared to challenge".
Managing bullying bosses
Based on the type of feedback I receive from the employee community, managing bullying bosses can be more stressful than one's job performance as their strength lies in creating tensions and discomfort which is all about feeling important. If you are so affected, start by identifying a trusted mentor either internal or external to the organisation with whom you can share and obtain advice. Also depending on their expertise, your mentor would be able to make the necessary interventions on your behalf; your mentor must also be far removed from the situation so that they can view through the unbiased lens.
Because of tensed relationships, employees are usually fearful about approaching their bosses for fear of victimisation and/or even losing their job. However, engaging in frank and respectful discussions is perhaps the best approach to begin the mend; if this direct approach proves fruitless, then liaise with Human Resources for directions on lodging a formal complaint. Adopting a professional stance in treating with the issue is critical as the existence of anxiety within a work team cannot create productive workspaces. Co-existing in a corporate environment infused with bullying can be extremely terrifying and has the potential to taint one's self-confidence and self-esteem. Because 90 per cent of one's time is spent at work both employers and employees are collectively responsible towards ensuring that their work environment is devoid of toxicity and humiliation. Effectively managing teams is devoid of the misuse of power and authority, emotional outbursts, self-interest and generally being the bearer of unfair treatment to employees. Remember, those are the very employees who contribute to the company's bottom line and therefore, continuously pulling at them for no apparent reason would do greater harm than good.
Workplace bullying also borders on incivility and should never go unnoticed—for example, both you and your boss are walking along the corridor at the same time, you hold the door and he/she passes through without acknowledging and saying thank you. It's described as low-intensity deviant behaviour with ambiguous intent to harm others in violation of approved norms for mutual respect and courtesy. Incivility manifests in three ways: first, it can be interpersonal in nature as in the example of holding the door. It can also be cyber related and exhibited through emails and social media communication; for example, giving your staff member an impossible deadline to complete a task. It can also be described as victimless when the incivil actions do not impact a particular individual but perhaps an entire department. Once observed and felt, acts of workplace incivility must be brought to the attention of the Human Resource Department so as to avoid increased toxicity.
Adriana Sandrine Isaac-Rattan is president of the International Women's Resource Network/Communications Consultant.