8 Reasons To Stop 'Feeding' Your Workplace Bullies

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I work in an animal hospital. Cliques and shunning are common in our workplaces. 

As you're probably well-aware of by now, bullying can happen anywhere and with anyone. But, it's possible to learn how to deal with workplace bullies, no matter where you are or what work you do. 

For example, I was made aware last week that a few of the "old girls" where we work have formed a clique that's displaying open contempt toward a newer employee.

To be fair, they do have reason to feel annoyed. In terms of technique, the newer person is behind, even though she’s worked here long enough to be doing much better.

But now, the clique has roped in another newer employee and the wars in the treatment area have heated to thermonuclear.

RELATED: Why A Bully In The Workplace Could Actually Be A Narcissist (& How To Stop It)

Workplace bullying is never the way to go.

Do you find yourself whispering to others you are close to at your workplace about an underperforming employee?

Are you the supervisor who is aware this is happening, but you’re doing nothing about it?

If one of these answers is "yes," then you’re feeding your workplace bullies.

What happens when a workplace bully isn’t stopped? The Dance of Anger by Harriet G. Lerner talks about this in depth.

To learn how to deal with workplace bullies, you need to stop feeding them. Here are 8 reasons why.

1. Their motives are their own.

The bully may be motivated by frustration because the victim either can’t or won’t do their job correctly. Or they may have more sinister motives, such as a need to ingratiate themselves with management.

Or they may also have self-esteem issues that fuel a need to be seen as better than the victim.

2. They will get others to side with them.

When the bully takes others aside to start a whispering campaign, vents frustration to others in private or openly treats the victim with scorn, this is called triangulation.

A problem that started out between the bully and the victim then gets displaced onto other people.

3. There's an imbalance in workplace relationships.

Ideally, workplace relationships should have everyone more or less equal. But, most people are astute enough to be aware when they're being talked about.

The surreptitious glances, the cold eyes following them around the room, and the furtive conversations that suddenly stop when they enter — they're easy to notice.

And it’s even more obvious when they're being treated with contempt or scorn.

As this goes on, workplace relationships start to resemble a closed-knit clique who are united in discussing or harassing the victim — and the victim unable to do anything.

4. The victim becomes incompetent.

When you hire somebody to do a job, you want them to become competent. What happens when one worker isn’t competent?

Mistakes happen. Wasted time. Wasted money. Angry clients. Upset and frustration all around.

Unfortunately, when one person is socially isolated like that little dot over there all by itself, that person isn’t likely to achieve competence.

5. The victim is isolated.

It's not a great feeling to be socially isolated in any environment — talked about, laughed at, and picked on.

In the working world, it’s worse, especially in this age of Covid-19. We’re all dependent on our jobs.

As the bullying victim becomes more and more aware of workplace derision and scorn, discomfort and fear rule their mind.

How will the workplace bullies act today? Could someone complain, or worse, lie, to management and get the victim fired?

RELATED: 5 Damaging Effects Of A Toxic Work Environment On Your Body & Mind

6. The victim becomes fearful and is ostracized.

To gain competence at work, what the victim most needs to do is learn. What she needs to do that is confidence.

Unfortunately, as the victim starts to tiptoe around, careful not to put another foot wrong, which might set off another round of hazing or gossip, fear interferes with learning and confidence.

So, the person being ostracized struggles even more than before with learning and mastery.

7. The victim is seen as not good enough.

As they talk over the person’s shortcomings, the bully and their cohorts reinforce the idea among themselves that the victim isn’t good enough.

They see a rigid picture of that person they become unwilling to change.

Harriet Lerner tells us, "The more two people talk about an under-functioning individual (rather than each working directly on that relationship), the more that party will have to work even harder to gain competence."

Now the bullying victim, who was behind to begin with, has to work four times as hard to be thought one-fourth as good, struggling against fear and self-doubt they didn’t have before!

8. It creates a toxic work environment.

If staff and management don’t correct this cycle immediately, it can snowball and create a permanently toxic workplace.

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Some bosses, like the infamous Donald Trump, believe a toxic atmosphere at work motivates people. And it might, but everyone there ends up tense and afraid.

It feels much better to look forward to a supportive atmosphere at work!

Be all in or all out.

When the time came for the senior people on the staff to approach the clinic owner about the situation, I shared the above seven points.

I, too, have been the underdog at other clinics and felt paranoid and frightened.

If you’re in one of the cliques, you need to get all out and stop whispering about the victim.

Do not treat the victim disrespectfully or support someone who is. Even if you’re angered or annoyed by what the person does, civil behavior is still 100 percent your responsibility.

My feeling in these situations is that management needs to make a decision: Either go all in and support the person in mastering the job or if that effort isn’t feasible for some reason, end the suffering right now and go on and fire the person.

For management, a halfway approach won’t do.

Due to these seven points, the problem isn’t going to solve itself if management doesn’t declare itself all in or all out.

This doesn’t mean that an employee who just isn’t getting it should be "carried" along forever.

What we, the senior staff, decided to do was identify the specific points where the person needs improvement, and then commit to making sure the person gets that specific help, with an eye toward termination if sufficient progress isn’t made in a reasonable period of time.

Ideally, this should be discussed with the person at a performance review. These are standard practices at large companies, but not in our small family-owned business.

In this case, one was needed.

Management also addressed the bullying at a mandatory staff meeting, letting everyone know that mature behavior is expected of all staff and that disrespectful behavior toward one another will not be tolerated.

Before all this started, newcomers to our clinic who had worked in animal hospitals before always remarked what a wholesome atmosphere we had and how much better our hospital was to work for.

Understanding these seven reasons and going all-in on the problems is what will help our clinic stay that way.

RELATED: 5 Shady Signs You're Being Bullied At Work Because You're A Woman

P.D. Reader, a student astrologer, blogs as The Thinking Other Woman. She blogs about affairs, relationships, and astrology.