Erica Pinsky



 3 Hot Tips to Bully-Proof Your Workplace


I noticed an older gentleman among the audience members waiting to speak to me after a recent conference presentation.  When the room had cleared, he asked if I had a few extra minutes to talk with him.


Turns out that the information in my presentation confirmed for him that he was being bullied at work.  The perpetrator was a new hire who had become his supervisor.


His was an all too familiar story.  He had enjoyed a wonderful career with his current organization and was nearing retirement.  He’d never had any issues with anyone he worked with and had no idea what he had done to cause this problem.  Although he was working ever harder, trying to be an asset to the team, whatever he did, his new boss found fault with him.  It was a litany of criticism, humiliation, insults and abuse.


He wanted to resolve the situation.  He had spoken to her on several occasions.  That only seemed to make it worse.


The stress of trying to deal with this for a number of months was taking a toll on his emotional and physical health.  He was constantly nervous and anxious at work.  He admitted, somewhat shamefully,  that he was afraid to be in an office alone with her.


As I listened I felt the usual swell of emotions: sadness, frustration and anger.  It is absolutely tragic to witness a grown man with tears in his eyes, upset, distraught and confused because of something that is happening to him at work.  What gets me angry is that the cause of this tragedy is something that is not only completely avoidable but given the passage of Bill 14 on July 1, 2012, is also contrary to occupational health and safety (OH&S) regulations in BC.


My blood started boiling when I learned that his new supervisor had been hired only months ago.  Bill 14 was enforced on January 1, 2013.  The employer community was expected to be compliant with the three OH&S policies the Board approved to clarify the role of employers, supervisors and workers in the prevention of workplace bullying and harassment by November 1, 2013.  The topic of bullying, harassment and respectful workplace has been a hot topic in the employer community for months.


The language in those OH&S policies is clear.


“A supervisor’s obligation to ensure health and safety of workers includes:


Not engaging in bullying and harassment of workers…


While I get the fact that our legal environment encourages us to be reactive – to wait until a complaint is filed and then deal with it, being proactive is the only sensible choice for any employer interested in creating a workplace that will attract and retain great employees and build high performing, cohesive teams.


If you are interested in being compliant with the new law in BC, start by shifting from being reactive to proactive.  Adopt strategies that will  bully proof your workplace.  Here are 3 hot tips to get you started on the Road to Respect™.


Hot Tip #1 – Get Curious about Your Hiring Practices.


“Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill”


I heard this phrase when I interviewed Ellen du Bellay, Senior VP, Executive Office Operations, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, for Road to Respect.  “ We hire for attitude, then train for skill,” she said.  “We are always looking for someone who is nice.”


It really is a no brainer.  It is a lot easier to train someone on skill based competencies than it is to train someone on attitudinal competencies.  Unfortunately, far too many employers focus on technical qualifications in hiring interviews.  If you want to bully proof your workplace, start focusing on behavioural qualifications.  Integrate those into your hiring practices.  Hire people that will be respectful in their treatment of others.


Hot Tip #2 – Get Curious about Workplace Relationships.


“The Employment Deal”


Bill 14 expands the notion of workplace hazards in employment beyond the traditional physical, ergonomic hazards to include behavioural hazards.  Workplace harassment and bullying are behaviours that arise in the context of workplace relationships.  My experience over the last 15 years in the Respect Business is that most employers spend very little time thinking about workplace relationships; that is, until they go bad, cause problems and/or become toxic.  Then we react; too late to avoid the inevitable damage to people and profits.


Such is not the case for local employer Blue Shore Financial (formerly North Shore Credit Union).  You might recall their “Employment Deal” from the post we ran when Blue Shore was recognized as one of “Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures™ of 2012” by Waterstone Human Capital.


Blue Shore’s “Employment Deal” clarifies expectations for individuals within workplace relationships, which are framed as partnerships flowing from the corporate values.  This facilitates a culture of  personal responsibility and behavioural accountability.


If you want to bully proof your workplace, get curious about the behavioural hazards that might be hidden within your workplace relationships.  Be strategic about building respectful workplace relationships that are going to support both individual and organizational health.


Hot Tip #3 - Get Curious about Power


“Respectful Leadership”


I refer to bullying and harassment as power based behaviours.  Our ability to engage in those behaviours, how we respond to those behaviours, is directly related to the dynamic of power.


Power is a factor in every workplace relationship.  It is a critically important factor in conflict.  Positional power, bestowed upon individuals in positions of leadership, is a particularly crucial source of workplace power.


Bullying is encouraged by a traditional command and control management style.




  Harry Gordon Selfridge, who revolutionized department store shopping


when he founded Selfridges in London in 1909, said


“Bosses say GO.  Leaders say LET'S GO.”


If you want to bully proof your workplace, get curious about how everyone, in particular those in positions of power in your workplace, manifests and demonstrates their power.  Adopt and enforce respectful leadership competencies to build a consistently respectful, relationship based leadership style in your workplace.


I look forward to the day when no one will line up and wait

 to speak to me about workplace disrespect.

Follow these Hot Tips and help make that vision a reality.

It’s the ultimate win/win for all of us.

 available as a PODCAST

Pinsky’s writing style makes this book an easy read for managers, decision-makers, human resource professionals and business owners and anyone else interested in building a respectful workplace. She provides tangible advice interwoven with the stories of real organizations who demonstrate on a daily basis the value of promoting a respectful workplace. Pinsky ensures that readers can glean from the book information they need to take action. A respectful  workplace culture is a road “paved” over time with trust and support; and Pinsky’s book provides the tools you need to arrive at your destination.

Catherine M. Mattice
President, Civility Partners, LLC & SME on Workplace Bullying