by Scott

September 24, 2020

Unconscious Bullying by a Manager

When Is A ‘Bully’ Not Intentionally A Bully?

We are regularly called in to organisations to explore individuals usually a manager or a leader that is deemed to be bullying. And what often happens is the complaints have been made by an individual or a group of individuals and enough is enough.

So what they do is invite us to come in and speak with this individual to understand that their behaviour their conduct, their communication may not be beneficial to those around them or the organisation.

What often happens though is that we find using the EQ-i 2.0 psychometric assessment we find the same kind of imbalances across the profiles. Let me just share with you for example, Emotional Self Awareness is often low.

Self Awareness Underpins
Emotional Intelligence

Where healthy Self-Awareness exists we know what’s going on with us. We notice ourself for example moving from peeved to frustrated, to annoyed, to angry, but at least if we notice this, the steps, we have the choice of getting from peeved to frustrated and then deciding to do something about it, think something differently, ask a question, go for a walk do anything, but stop that progression of this emotion that may be more destructive than constructive.

With low Self Awareness we don’t have that opportunity really to notice these things because we’re not paying attention to it. And as we can only act on what we think about, if we’re not thinking about it, we have no awareness of it so Self-Awareness usually is the first thing that underpins conduct or communication or behaviour that can be received by others as bullying. Secondly, and this is mostly for leaders and managers, Assertiveness.

When Assertive Is Received As Aggressive

Assertiveness is we can stand our ground We can argue a point without arguing with each other. We can disagree but we do it agreeably and indeed this kind of healthy candid dialogue collaborative dialogue can help nourish the relationship rather than punish the relationship. High levels of Assertiveness really can move into aggressive where:-

“I will tell you how it is.”

“This is what you need to know”

“You need to hear this”

“This is what’s happening”

“Has that job been done?”

It’s not:-

“How are you?”

“Can I help you do the job?” but

“Has that job been done?”

It’s very command and controlling and when it’s the default setting rather than a backup option, when is the default setting this can really hurt rather than help relationships. Hurt rather than help engagement. Hurt rather than help trust. So people just back away because that individual if it’s a leader or a manager especially is in a position of authority and authority is not to be challenged questioned or doubted. So low Self-Awareness, high level of Assertiveness.

What we also find is low range Empathy. Empathy is our ability and also willingness to step out of our own world as we see it step into somebody else’s and understand it as best we can, clarify our understanding then step back out and make an appropriate communication, ask a question, take appropriate action or make a certain decision. Low range Empathy can mean I’m so focused on the outcome I don’t care about your journey. I’m so focused on getting this done, you’re just there. You should know what to do get it done.

These imbalances partnered with low range Impulse Control are really a recipe for disaster if nothing is done to remedy the situation. Low range Impulse Control, if you’ve ever been in the meeting and someone even though you’ve switched your phones off or switched to silent someone’s phone vibrates or beeps and they pick it up, start looking but really the message they’re sending you right there and anyone else is whatever this message is, whatever it’s about whoever its from for me and my brain at this moment is more important and more interesting than you.

Low Impulse Control Causes Problems

Low range Impulse Control can lead to fundamentally flawed decisions and behaviours and communication because it’s a jump before you look approach rather than look before you jump. Even if you should be there anyway. Sometimes you shouldn’t be there. You should be in a different place where we’re having this healthy dialogue, we’re asking questions we’re offering support and also a taking time to stop and think. But with low Impulse Control they tend not to do that because they’ve got the next thing to do the next meeting to go to the next person to satisfy the email just pinged so they’ve now got to pay attention to this.

What we find with people when we collaborate with them is they never intended to be bullies. They never intended to have an impact that was hurtful for others that was disengaging for others which was really demoralising for others.

But why are we called in? Because no one else dare tell them.

They’ve been on training courses. The learning didn’t stick because it was a group and it was standard off-the-shelf rather than designed specifically to address the situation and replace an unwanted kind of behaviour or communication or thinking with something that doesn’t take away their option to continue as they are but gives them more options to choose from in how they manage themselves, their communication and others in future. So bullies aren’t always bullies.

Of course, there are people that go out to bully, go out to steamroll through people. That’s different. But in terms of these imbalances this is where many challenges occur and they can be easily addressed in just three to four hours with a little bit of coaching afterwards.

This is about helping people become more self-reliant by becoming more self-aware and actually owning their learning rather than thinking I’ve had to go on a course to STOP BEING A BULLY.

About the author 

Scott

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