She intimidates, then hoards work and creates a bottleneck. She makes snarky remarks and then acts innocent when called on them. She scares others and is seen as difficult, but is so good at what she does, no manager is addressing the most problematic issue. Enter the common problem of having a bully who is also a high performer and in most organizations, thus untouchable. It’s time to reach out and touch them. Well, not in that manner certainly, but in ways that use today’s Monday Moments’ must have methods for management of the high performing bully’s behavior and impact.
When most managers detail out the behaviors of a bully, they will write down on the Performance Plan items such as unprofessional, attitude problem, or difficult behavior. These items, though they shed some light on the type of behavior one would see in a bully, are far from specific enough to change behavior. What does this person do exactly? When you say difficult, what do you mean? When they are unprofessional, what are they doing? Perhaps it is a tone of voice that is no longer going to be tolerated. Maybe this bully responds negatively to common positive requests. The bully could be giving a look, avoiding talking to certain team members, or acting in ways that are inconsistent (nice to one, but mean to another). In order to manage the behavior and make a request for it to stop or change, you must be far more clear on exactly what you want them to stop, modify, or change immediately, or else you’ll need bail money.
Once you’re crystal clear and specific, now it’s time for the dreaded conversation. This is not the time to point fingers, place blame on others, or attempt to explain the motivations behind their behavior. This conversation is also not one that needs to follow the sandwich formula. (positive, negative, positive) The conversation you have with a bully about what behavior needs to change needs to resemble the one you would have with a grocer asking for change for the hundred you just used to purchase $3 dollars of apples. Your tone is expectant with no emotion. Of course, the change is forthcoming. Your delivery is objective and simple. I give you money; you give me change. Your demeanor is unwavering about this it what will happen or there will be consequences. All too often managers become mired in the emotion, blame game, and excessive explanation of why and who and when and why not and so forth. The behavior is no longer going to be tolerated. State the behavior from your list of specifics. State what you expect to be done differently. State the consequences. Hold your emotions until they have left the building and then phone a non-work friend.
High performers, and everyone else, know that as long as their results are top-notch, murder with no consequences is an option. Figuratively, of course. However, that belief of being able to get away with anything comes from being able to get away with anything because few will take ownership of staying on top of the problem needed for a change in behavior. Breathe down their neck. Stay completely glued to their hip and up their tailpipe, in the nicest of ways. If nothing else, there is motivation to change just to get you off of their back. The moment you see this high performing bully step out of line from what you’ve asked, make polite mention of it. Bring it up. You’re not being a management nag, you’re being vigilante and reminding them of that to which they’ve already committed. If you gave a hundred dollar bill for $3 dollars of apples would you really let them mail your change back to you when they got around to it? Isn’t a problem that drains you daily at the office where you spend more time than with your family, worth at least the same amount of vigilance you’d use to get the rest of your money?
High performing office bullies are not easy. They’ve been told and trained that they’re needed. They may even believe the company needs them more than is reality, but if no one ever corrects that belief, silence and inaction are synonymous with confirmation. Their behavior is tedious to manage and time consuming, but just think of the time you will get back after the short period of details and paperwork and vigilance, when the line outside your office and the tears or complaints from those in it, becomes a thing of the past. You can do this!
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist and professional speaker. Her coaching, books, and skill based training programs are requested internationally. Monica is the CEO of www.ContagiousCompanies.com and a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. She may be reached at 1-866-382-0121.