what? our action approach.

BEYOND BULLYING™ begins with perspective and priorities: When confronted with communication
challenges, conflict between personnel, or the numerous interpersonal behaviors and interactional issues typically labeled as “bullying”, where do you choose to put your time, energy, and resources? If your goal is to restore respectful relationships so your folks can focus on your mission and your organization can get back to business…

it’s LESS important to label the behavior; MORE important to identify – inquire – develop insights; and MOST important to initiate appropriate interventions that address issues and behaviors promptly and effectively.            

In a nutshell: DO deal with the behavior – regardless of the label or the source. For the organization that strives for respect, ANY work relationship or behavior that’s called “bullying”, or that just does not contribute to a respectful work environment, is worthy of action – in a manner that preserves everyone’s humanity and fits your organizational values.

I call this the BEYOND BULLYING™ Humanistic – Action – Behavioral  [HAB] approach:  

Humanistic, because everyone is treated with respect and dignity – even the “bully”; Action, because attention is focused on effective and sustainable interventions; and  Behavioral – our entry point for growth – individual and organizational – toward responsibility, resolution, and respect. 

The HAB process is grounded in the principles presented here – principles that your organization can immediately apply. Our tools are available to support your efforts. Remember, although presented as sequential steps, this is not a linear process.

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♦ Identify the interactional/interpersonal behaviors or issues that are causing distress or concern in the workplace, as the first step, in a constructive way that sets a tone of respect, responsibility, and resolution for the involved individuals and throughout the organization. What behaviors or communications cross the line? Does everyone know what they can do when that line is crossed? Are expectations (and consequences, if needed) clear and consistent, or are particular people or positions treated differently? Has your organization had this essential conversation – I call it the Quest for Respect – to establish group norms and commitments to behaviors, communication, and conflict resolution that are consistent with your organization’s mission and culture?
At what levels? How do you engage the witness or bystander?

HAB-Interactive Tool:
26 Qs to Kick-off the Quest for Respect in Your Workplace

What happens when an employee has a concern? What language is used to express their distress? Is someone in charge of making a judgment about the validity of their concern? What happens if the concern doesn’t quite reach that level of legitimacy, or if there’s a perception that the employee is a “whiner”, or his/her concerns are related to performance issues or legitimate business needs? 

A policy that requires you to either define or dismiss creates frustration or escalation for the employee who feels un-heard or rebuffed. The HAB process is the alternative that enables your organization to assesses and address – free from the need to fit behaviors into the constricting box of policy definition before taking action.

The HAB principle is to respect both the complainant and the alleged offender. Each is freed from labels that blame and shame. Participants in our process begin the shift from the language of bullying to the language of behaviors. While respecting each person’s perception, feelings, and experience, the HAB process creates the potential to share responsibility for creating a respectful relationship, and supports a work environment that sustain solutions.

HAB-Identify Tools:
Behavioral Inquiry
Situational Inquiry 

 Second, invite introspection to develop insights into beliefs, motivations, and attitudes that may influence, contribute to or perpetuate the behavior, situation or issue.  And here’s the radical notion that challenges the prevailing paradigm of workplace bullying: the HAB approach encourages each participant in the interactional/interpersonal dynamic – targeted employee[s] as well as alleged offender[s] – to look at the situation from the other guy’s, as well as their own, point of view; and to explore their own, as well as the other guy’s, influencing factors.

The insights revealed – even a bit of empathy, understanding, or compassion – can be key to willingness to take responsibility and choose to change. The issue or situation presented may just be a symptom – and symptoms have a habit of morphing into bigger and more attention-grabbing syndromes unless the root causes are revealed. By excavating the functions and motivations of those behaviors, participants can safely dig deeper into the root causes of their issues, and take the next steps toward sustainable solutions.

HAB-Insight Tools:
Motivational/Functional Inquiry
♦The Targ-ant [Complainant/Target] Guide to Self-Reflection
♦ And third, what is gleaned from the motivational inquiry informs the choice of interventions with the offender, targeted employee, bystander, and leadership. Select interventions that are appropriate to the people and the circumstances, and choose with care. Behavioral, situational, and motivational inquiry may signal seriously abusive or even sociopathic behaviors that can and do occur in the workplace, and these require professional judgment, treatment, or decisions beyond the scope of the HAB approach.

The goals of intervention are to rectify the behavior of the alleged offender; restore the well-being of the target and witness employees; and/or repair the relationship between the participants in the dynamic or situation. Free from the constraints of fitting a distressful behavior into the tight box of policy definition, interventions address any work relationship or behavior that’s generally labeled as bullying, or just does not contribute to a respectful work environment: tough supervision, micromanagement, overly zealous colleagues, workload, feedback and criticism.

Interventions might include coaching – constructive conversation [I call this the 3C conversation: clear, compassionate, and constructive] – facilitated conversation – mediation – employee assistance program. And yes, sometimes disciplinary consequences may be called for. Interventions are an investment in support so that your employees can achieve behavioral expectations and productive work relationships.

Guide to the Clear/Compassionate/Constructive Confrontation/Conversation
Guide to Coaching with the Alleg-ator [Alleged Perpetrator]  

Pun alert: the BEYOND BULLYING™ alternative action approach is designed to develop new organizational and interpersonal HAB-ITs!  

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